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Long serving Coryton oil refinery worker says he dreads day he has to leave his job
3:10pm Thursday 14th June 2012 in Local News
JASON Williams has given more than two and a half decades of his life to the Coryton oil refinery.
But after 26 years of clocking in and out at the plant he now, like so many others, feels he has been hung out to dry as D-Day for the doomed refinery looms.
Jason, 43, of Boyce Road, Stanford-le-Hope, started off as an apprentice at the refinery, aged 17.
Now, after rising through the ranks to process controller, he is facing either the dole queue or the prospect of relocating abroad as the refinery looks set to close for ever. About 850 workers face losing their jobs.
Jason said: “There are so many feelings here that it’s hard to describe. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. Every day has been different.
“Despair, anger, then a glimmer of hope – only to find out it’s back to despair again.
“We started realising that all was not well back in November when we heard rumours of the refinery’s credit lines closing.
“Basically, they weren’t going to have enough money to buy in crude oil. But I don’t think anyone thought it would eventually lead to this. We were all anxious, but hopeful.
“The main crux was that at Coryton we were always the jewel in the Petroplus crown. We were the best performing refinery, making a lot of money.
“But when Petroplus started getting in trouble, it leveraged all its debt against Coryton, leading to what has happened now.”
The refinery was previously operated by BP, which sold the site to Petoplus in 2007 for £714.6million. But in January, Petroplus went bankrupt with debts of some £100million.
Jason says the workers believe the problems began when the plant was sold off by BP. He said: “As you can imagine, there’s a lot of anger and disappointment here.
“Anger at Petroplus but, to be honest, I think the most anger is directed towards BP for selling us in the first place.
“As for the workers, we are all facing the same destiny. We are very close here. We’re more of a family. We have football teams, cricket and social events.”
The plant is now in the process of closing after administrators PwC failed to find a buyer, meaning its 850 strong workforce will be laid off.
Jason said: “For me personally, this hasn’t been just a place to work every day for the past 26 years. It’s been so much more than that.
“A lot of people have already gone. We aren’t refining oil anymore. There will come a day very soon when the gates close for good, but I don’t even want to think about how I will feel that day. This is an industry with specialist skills and there just aren’t lots of jobs around for Coryton workers.
“Lots of us will have to take jobs offshore or relocate abroad to places like Nigeria and Kazakhstan. Nobody wants to do that, of course, but people have families to look after and mortgages to pay.
Jason, who is single and a former pupil of St Clere’s School in Stanford-le-Hope, says he hopes the ongoing protests will make the powers-that-be realise how devastating an affect the closure of Coryton will be, not only for the workers, but the wider community.
He said: “We feel we are in the situation now where we’ve nothing to lose.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the public and they can help by writing to their MP and asking them to intervene.”