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1 June 2012
Britain's largest trade union Unite urged the government to keep the Coryton oil refinery in operation today, saying it was in the national interest to do so.
Union officials met with administrators and government officials last night in a bid to avert the closure of the refinery which supplies 20 per cent of fuel to London and the South East as well as aviation fuel to major airports including Heathrow. Since it went in to administration Coryton has refined 20 million barrels of oil.
Even though the refinery in Essex is one of the most productive and efficient in Europe, the administrator PwC is proposing to begin to shut it down over the next few weeks.
Maintaining that it was in the national interest to keep Coryton running, Unite criticised plans to begin the phased shut down as soon as next week without a full economic or environmental assessment being carried out.
The union is urging the government to follow the lead of the French government and give state aid to keep Coryton going until a buyer can be found. The French government has provided £16 million as part of a deal to maintain operations of Petroplus' Petit Couronne facility.
Unite is also calling a meeting of representatives from the UK's refineries to brief them on the developments at Coryton.
Commenting, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “Unite members at Coryton have kept the refinery safely running since it went into administration and have shown great skill and dedication in doing so.
“Not only will Coryton's closure rip the heart out of the community, it will also further undermine the UK's already fragile refining industry. The national economy relies on oil and the security and continuity of its supply. It is simply too important to fall victim to speculators and the whim of the market.
“The threat to Coryton once again underlines how fragmented the supply of this vital commodity is and the need for the government to intervene and work with us to develop a strategy that brings stability to oil industry.
"We are seeking a further urgent meeting with the government and will be pressing for a proper economic assessment of the implications that the refinery's closure will have for the region. We were told it was in the national interest to bail out the banks and we would argue it is in the national interest to provide state assistance to keep such an important and strategic refinery running.
"Coryton supplies 20 per cent of the fuel in London and the South East as well as major airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick. The ending of refining there could lead to fuel prices rising which would be bad for business and the public."