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  1. ITV Report

Workers demonstrate against Coryton deal

Coryton workers gather outside the Vopak terminal in Purfleet Photo: ITV Anglia

Workers at the Coryton oil refinery and their families have gathered outside the Vopek terminal in Purfleet for a 24 hour demonstration against the sale of the Essex plant. They were joined by Unite the Union and members of the Fire Brigades Union.

It follows the sale of Coryton to a consortum including Vopak, Shell and Greenergy. The new owners plan to convert the site into an import terminal for fuel, which workers say will mean the loss of 850 jobs.

Demonstrators are now demanding a public inquiry into how the sale was agreed. They accuse the administrator, PricewaterhouseCoopers, of refusing to give details about the sale, and say that other serious buyers who hoped to keep Coryton as a refinery were overlooked.

Unite national officer Linda McCulloch, said:

"There are some major questions to answer over the sale of Coryton. 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."

– Linda McCulloch, Unite

But PricewaterhouseCoopers insist the sale process for Coyrton was fair. In a statement they said:

"The administrators sale process for Coryton was clear, transparent and objective... The administrators sold the assets to the highest bidder, which will provide the best return to the company's creditors. They are required to do this by law under the Insolvency Act. "They were open to all expressions of interest throughout and evaluated over 100 approaches... No credible party was excluded from the bidding process. Ultimately the best bid was tabled by the Vopak, Shell, Greenergy group."

– PricewaterhouseCoopers

The Unite union is also questioning the government's role in the refinery's closure, which it says will cost businesses and the local economy about £250 million.