Thurrock’s Labour Leader asks government to intervene in closure of Essex oil refinery


More than a hundred people, including Unite members and Labour MEP, Richard Howitt, this morning braved the weather to stage a demonstration outside Coryton Refinery.

The demonstration and community action followed warnings from the leader of Thurrock council that the economic impact of the refinery’s closure would be huge. Nearly 1,000 people working at Coryton face losing their jobs, if the closure goes ahead.

Unite called on the government to follow the example of the French government and act in the national interest by giving state aid to keep Coryton running until a buyer can found.

Thurrock council commissioned an economic impact assessment on the closure or change of use of the site. Initial indications point to the loss of £30 million in wages, £26 million in contractor costs, £6 million in locally sourced materials, as well as £40 million spent on chemicals and utilities, plus £5 million in business rates.

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke, said: “The economic impact and human cost of Coryton’s closure will be massive. The government cannot continue to sit on its hands and allow livelihoods to be destroyed.

“Over £100 million could be drained from the local and national economy as well as the UK’s refining capacity being undermined. Today’s protest shows that the workers, who have kept the site running feel let down, and angry by the government’s failure to intervene.”

The Labour Leader of Thurrock Council, John Kent, earlier called on the government to listen to the highly skilled workforce, Unite and the local community and intervene to support the retention of the Coryton refinery.

The refinery on the Thames Estuary went into administration in January after its parent company, Swiss-based Petroplus, collapsed. Around 100 workers are today protesting outside the plant before moving into the town centre.

John Kent said: “Since January Thurrock Council and I have played by the rules. We have followed the administrators’ wishes because they told us they were confident of finding a buyer for the refinery and saving all the jobs.

“But time is running out. Following the administrators’ disappointing statement in May, we had our first meeting of the Task Group days later. We were led to believe there would be ministerial support and that a government minister would be present, or at least on the end of a telephone.

“But no. Apparently the Coryton situation doesn’t merit any interest among the elected ministers and to me that is not good enough.

“I believe that while the council’s ability to influence the final outcome remains limited, we must continue to prepare for the worst to ensure workers are not left hanging without hope.

“That is why it is vital we have an Economic Impact Assessment to make sure we have clear evidence of the likely impact of closure – and an Environmental Impact Assessment to help frame any possible future options for the site, should the refinery close.

“At the same time we must point out how the government’s options are more wide ranging.

“I understand that an injection of between 100 and 165 million American dollars would ensure the refinery could stay open. I have also been told closure of the refinery, even keeping it as a storage facility, would cost the local and national economies more than £100 million.

“The government claims it is against EU rules for them to intervene, but that hasn’t stopped the French from doing exactly that.

“The government claims it is against EU rules for them to intervene, but that didn’t stop a £20 billion intervention in the Royal Bank of Scotland … and others, saving their banker friends.

“Why not do it here? It can be done, just find a way, or perhaps they don’t have any oil refinery worker friends.

“I fear the government’s strict adherence to political dogma is being played out at the cost of Thurrock families’ lives, but I am not asking for compassion, I am asking for the government to show some common sense.

“The longer this goes on the more difficult the investment case becomes so I urge government to seriously reconsider their position and put Britain’s economy and British jobs first.”

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