Two days of official protests are designed to highlight unions’ calls for public inquiry into threatened closure of Essex refinery

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Unite has accused the Coalition government of snubbing the 800 workers who face redundancy from the Coryton oil refinery in Essex, by refusing to set up a ‘beefed-up’ task force to tackle the economic fall-out.

It 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.

Unite is stepping up protests against the proposed closure with two days of official demonstrations at the Purfleet oil terminal, which is owned by Vopak, one of the companies which bought Coryton after it was forced into administration in January and now intend to use it simply as an import terminal.

The deal, which Unite officials describe as being ‘shrouded in secrecy’, will leave just a handful of jobs at Coryton.

Organisers hope hundreds of supporters will join the official demonstrations tomorrow and Sunday 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.

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.

Unite national officer, Linda McCulloch said: “This is a snub to the workforce by a short-sighted government that cares little or nothing for a joined-up industrial strategy.

“However, the fight continues.

“This has just strengthened our resolve in calling for a public inquiry.

“It is clear that the government could have provided a short-term state aid to keep the refinery going until a viable buyer was found, as the French government did in similar circumstances.

“The workers and the public have a right to know about the machinations behind the scenes that led up to the present dismal situation.”

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.


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