Ministers challenged to meet oil workers facing sack

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Ministers have been urged to meet workers at an oil refinery set to be made redundant and explain why they are not using state aid to help save jobs.

Unite accused the Government of “betraying” workers at the Coryton oil refinery in Essex after a decision not to apply to the European Commission for permission to use state funds to keep it open while searching for a buyer.

Unions, politicians and other campaigners have been pressing Ministers to consider putting up cash to keep the refinery going until administrators can find a buyer as its closure would drain £100m from the economy.

But Ministers said overcapacity in the refining industry meant it would not be sustainable to provide government help.

Unite said Energy Secretary Ed Davey should meet the 850 workers, accusing the coalition of “double standards” after £100bn was offered to banks for lending purposes.

General secretary Len McLuskey said: “Last night, the Chancellor pledged to pump in at least £100bn into the banking system to boost lending – which bankers should be doing anyway as that’s their job – in an attempt to build a financial firewall against the situation in Greece.

“Yet, a similar request from Unite for state aid in the short-term to tide over Coryton until a viable buyer is found to take over the oil refinery is dismissed by Ministers out-of-hand.

“This is simply not good enough. Ed Davey and his ministerial team should have the courage to get in their limos and drive to Coryton to tell the workers why they have to lose their jobs, while bankers in the City scoop up outrageous and undeserved bonuses.”

GMB union official Phil Whitehurst said: “How can the Government just sit back and let 850 refinery workers lose their jobs?”

Thurrock Council commissioned an economic impact assessment of the closure which found it would cost £30m in wages, £26m in contractor costs, £6m in locally sourced materials, £40m spent on chemicals and utilities, and £5 m in business rates.

A Government spokesman said: “Departments across Government have looked very carefully at whether or not state aid should be provided for Coryton. But we have come to the conclusion that the existing overcapacity in the refining industry and declining demand for petrol mean that it would not be sustainable.”