Unite is stepping up protests against proposed closure of Essex refinery – and loss of 800 jobs – with two days of official demonstrations at Purfleet oil terminal


Unite is stepping up protests against the proposed closure of the Coryton oil refinery in Essex – and the loss of 800 jobs – with two days of official demonstrations at the Purfleet oil terminal, which is operated by one of the new owners of the Coryton site.

Organisers hope hundreds of supporters will join the official demonstrations today and tomorrow at the Purfleet complex, which are designed to highlight Unite’s demand for a public inquiry into the sale of Coryton last month to a consortium comprising Vopak, Shell and Greenergy.

Unite Regional organiser, Russ Ball told UnionNews: “We are hoping for hundreds of people to join the protest, which is backed by other unions from UNISON and the RMT to the FBU.

“We will not be picketing, we are not asking people at the terminal to stop work, but we are taking this campaign one step at a time.

“This is part of our campaign for a public inquiry into the Coryton sale and closure and demos can be just as effective as other means when we get the numbers.”

The consortium of companies bought Coryton after it was forced into administration in January.

They now intend to use it simply as an import terminal, which will require just a handful of the current workforce to remain.

Unite describes the deal as being ‘shrouded in mystery’.

This morning’s protest follows the rejection by Business Minister, Mark Prisk, of calls from unions and Thurrock Council to form a regional task force to try to limit the damage from the expected £250m loss to the economy of south Essex.

Both Coryton’s owners and government ministers blame over-capacity in the refining industry for the planned closure.

They say falling demand for petrol, greater use of biofuels and competition from foreign refineries mean that state aid to continuing operations at the Essex plant would not be viable.

Coryton is one of eight refineries in the UK and supplies 20% of all the fuel used in London and the south east of England.

Unions dismiss as ‘nonsense’ government claims that Coryton should cease refining operations because of over-capacity in the wider industry.

The protests are due to begin at 10.00am today and tomorrow, at the Vopak Terminal, Burnley Road, RM20 3ED.

The nearest stations are Purfleet, Grays, & Chafford Hundred.

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