Unite union calls for UK government help over Murco refinery

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Media captionA buyer has proved hard to find and time is running out

The closure-threatened Murco oil refinery in Pembrokeshire should be saved by the UK government to meet the nation's energy needs and preserve the plant's jobs, said a union.

Talks have begun with the 400 staff over the Milford Haven plant's future.

Unite union said the UK government must step in to support Welsh industry and secure petrol supplies.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said it stood ready to help Murco in efforts to find a buyer.

Murphy Oil, the refinery's American owners, announced on Thursday the plant could face closure after talks with London-based private equity fund Greybull Capital broke down.

It now plans to speak to a small number of interested parties, which could lead to the refinery continuing to operate.

But bosses at the plant have admitted all possibilities, including closure, were being considered.

'All at stake'

Managing director Tom McKinlay told BBC Radio Wales: "We've been trying to sell this business for more than three years now and will continue to carry it forward as a going concern, even though we've made significant losses over the past several months."

The Welsh government has offered its support, and First Minister Carwyn Jones will visit the site to see if jobs can be retained.

But Unite's Welsh secretary Andy Richards called on the UK government to step in and save the refinery.

"Jobs, the economy and the UK's security of supply are all at stake," Mr Richards said.

"The UK government cannot repeat the mistake of Coryton [in Essex] and allow another of the UK's oil refineries to close.

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Media captionAn oil industry analyst told BBC Radio Wales plans to sell the site had always been a challenge

"It needs to do everything possible to maintain refining capacity at Milford Haven to meet the nation's energy needs and save the hundreds of jobs at the site."

Mr Richards said the workforce had worked "under real pressure" in a climate of uncertainty over the past four years during the search for a new buyer.

"They have done nothing to deserve this treatment. It's now time for all parties that have a stake in the future of Milford Haven to fight tooth and nail to save the refinery," he added.

A DECC spokesperson said: "We are sorry to hear about the potential changes at Milford Haven refinery and the possible impact on the many people who work there.

"The UK government is in close contact with Murco and the Welsh government and stand ready to support them in their ongoing efforts to find a buyer for the plant and a future which protects the jobs of the workforce."

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