Coryton workers demand public enquiry after refinery is to be no more

Posted on 18 Jul 2012 by Chris Flynn

Coryton oil refinery workers are demanding a public inquiry into the sale of the site, which could result in the loss of 850 jobs.

Workers from the Coryton oil refinery will stage a demonstration outside the Vopak terminal in Purfleet this Saturday (July 21) demanding a public inquiry into the sale of the Coryton oil refinery in June.

The deal will see Coryton converted into an import terminal for fuel, with the loss of up to 600 jobs.

Over 180 workers have already been made redundant by administrators PwC.

A spokesperson for PwC has commented that the majority of staff are set to be made redundant over the coming weeks as the winding down of the refinery continues. The new import terminal will be run on skeleton staff levels, with a workforce size of around 50 employees carrying out the remaining duties on site.

There were hopes that the 500 staff originally employed directly at the refinery, and a further 350 staff working at Coryton through contractors, would be saved had the refinery stayed open.

The refinery entered administration in January under the ownership of Zurich-based Petroplus. PwC struggled to find a buyer but sold the facility to a consortium that included Shell, fuel storage firm Vopak and petrol supplier Greenergy last month.

Large ships will now bring finished products directly into the UK market as opposed to carrying out any refining process on British shores.

UK trade union Unite has raised questions over PwC’s decision to sign a deal with Vopak, Shell and Greenergy.

Unite national officer Linda McCulloch said: “We know there were serious bidders to keep the refinery going, but have yet to get satisfactory answers as to why they failed. Our fear is that Vopak, Shell and Greenergy were waiting in the wings and that it was a done deal for some time.”

The trade union organised the demonstration and has been joined by Labour MEP Richard Howitt and Thurrock Council leader John Kent in its call for an inquiry.

Thurrock Council and Unite had previously requested a government backed regional task force to be set up to combat the economic fall-out from the closure. Unite expects £250m to be lost from the local economy but have received no response to its request.

The workforce is also angry that the government refused to grant state aid to keep the refinery running until a viable buyer could be found.

Linda McCullock added: “To add insult to injury, ministers have ignored repeated requests to set up a regional taskforce to combat the massive economic fall-out. Coryton workers, their families and the community demand answers and a public inquiry.”