Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

Posted on 12 June 2012 at 10:38 GMT

Coryton refinery closure protests

Dave Murray

If the government and the liquidators get their way, over 800 workers at Coryton oil refinery in Essex will be sacked as the plant is shut down on 19 June.

The refinery has been under a shadow since its Swiss owner, Petroplus, having loaded itself with debt, became insolvent in January, placing the facility in the hands of the receivers, Price Waterhouse Cooper.

PWC plan to sell the plant to the highest bidder, regardless of the effect of their decision on the workers.

In this case the highest bidder would appear to be a cover company for the Shell oil company, who intend to dismantle the refinery and replace it with a terminal - a facility for the importation of fuels employing a fraction of the numbers that currently work there - leaving Coryton workers without even the guarantee of basic redundancy pay - even though many have given decades of service.

Members of Unite at the refinery are fighting back. On 11 June they mounted protests at the refinery gate and at the Vopak fuel depot, a supply hub for petrol stations across the region, as well as marching into the centre of the local town (Corringham), where they were welcomed by the people there, who understand the blow that the closure will deal to their community.

It has come out that Shell's offer for the site was not the only one, and that in fact another bidder had a proposal that would have maintained production at Coryton.

The difference between this bid and Shell's amounts to some 50-60 million. Calls for the government to step in with guarantees for this amount have been stonewalled, even though it has been reckoned that the closure will cost up to 80 million to the local economy. This is quite a contrast with its actions in relation to insolvent banks.


There are echoes here of the Visteon struggle, where a ruthless employer and the former parent company Ford attempted to weasel out of its responsibilities towards its employees.

That struggle, played out only a few miles away at the Visteon plant in Basildon, is well known to Unite members at Coryton.

It showed that workers can win something if they fight. After months of occupations and pickets, Visteon workers facing only statutory redundancy payments won an enhanced pay-off.

For the Coryton workers there is a very limited amount of time in which to take action. If the closure is allowed to go ahead as planned it will not only be a disaster for the workers on that site, sacked with the maximum statutory redundancy off the government of under 13,000, but it will be used to undermine the security, pay and conditions of workers right across the fuel supply industry - including drivers and depot workers as well as refinery workers.

While the Coryton workers need to have an urgent but serious and sober look at all of the options open to them, including occupation, their union has a responsibility not just to back their actions, but to deal with the issue on an industry-wide basis, by taking action across the industry to protect jobs at Coryton.

If Unite made the threat that the sacking of these workers would trigger a national stoppage at all oil refineries and in particular the oil tanker drivers, it would put huge pressure on the government to intervene.

Industry analysts and commentators speak ominously of "overcapacity" in the UK. It would be nave to imagine that the closure of Coryton would settle the matter.

The Coryton closure is part of a 'race to the bottom' in a global industry whose key players are amongst the most ruthless capitalists on the planet.

Even a successful campaign to save Coryton would be only a temporary victory. As socialists we call for the public ownership of the fuel supply industry, under workers' control and management.

Then we could look seriously not just at securing the future of the workers in that industry but also at the wider issue of the efficient, sustainable and ecologically sound development of the energy industry.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 12 June 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

Related links:


triangleUnite takes legal action against Argos

triangleFirefighters rally to defend pay and conditions

triangleFire service cuts a double-edged sword

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleLondon meetings: Why you should join the Socialist Party


triangleFawley refinery canteen strikers tell their employer: "pay up"

triangleFawley strike defeats 'race to bottom' exploitation of migrant workers

triangleFawley refinery strike against 'race to bottom'

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Lessons of the 2009 Lindsey Refinery strike


trianglePolice wade in at Coryton protest

triangleNo to job losses at Coryton

triangleCoryton refinery workers protesting on Monday


triangle110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

triangleTrump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian conflict


triangleMovement growing against fracking giant Ineos


triangleArriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Blairite council 'all ears' to rich property developers


North West

Arriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise


Waltham Forest

Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents



Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell



Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos



Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts



Tory plan to hold dinner at coal mining museum defeated



Bradford campaign to save children's services launched


South London

South London health bosses' cover-up



Unite day of action against blacklisting



Brighton victory



Newham anti-academies strikes


Tamil Solidarity

Tamil Solidarity and Refugee Rights activists meeting



Support the Crossrail Woolwich walkout



Unite protest against blacklisting

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle16 Dec Blairite council 'all ears' to rich property developers

triangle16 Dec Arriva bus drivers' action wins pay rise

triangle14 Dec Stop the rotten redevelopment plan, demand residents

triangle13 Dec Six months on - still no justice for Grenfell

triangle13 Dec Movement growing against fracking giant Ineos

triangle13 Dec Totnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

triangle13 Dec Trump's incendiary Jerusalem statement reignites Israeli-Palestinian...

More ...

triangle18 Dec Leeds Socialist Party: Religion and Socialism

triangle19 Dec Bristol North Socialist Party: Christmas social

triangle21 Dec Wakefield Socialist Party: Socialists and the National Question

triangle6 Jan Socialist Party national women's meeting

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice