Coryton oil refinery workers and their families will be demonstrating outside the Vopak terminal in Purfleet from 10am this Saturday (July 21), demanding a public inquiry into the sale of the refinery with the loss of 850 jobs.

The demonstration, organised by Unite the union, follows the sale of Coryton to a consortium including Vopak, Shell and Greenergy. The deal, which Unite claims has been shrouded in secrecy, will see Coryton converted into an import terminal for fuel, leaving jobs for just a handful of people.

The union says that questions remain over the conduct of the administrator Price Waterhouse Coopers which, Unite claims, has refused to give details about the sale or explain why serious buyers who wanted to keep Coryton refining were overlooked.

The workforce and the community are also questioning the government’s role in the refinery’s closure, which is said to cost business and the regional economy an estimated £250m.

People are angry that the government refused to grant state aid to keep the refinery running until a viable buyer could be found, as well as its failure to set up a regional task force to deal with the economic fall-out, the union adds.

Unite and the Coryton workers have been joined in their call for an inquiry by Labour MEP Richard Howitt and local politicians, including the leader of Thurrock Council, John Kent.

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.

“Added to that was the government’s refusal to grant state aid, despite French counterparts intervening to keep Coryton’s sister refinery in France running.

“To add insult to injury, ministers have ignored repeated requests to set up a regional taskforce to combat the massive economic fall-out. Coryton workers, their families and the community demand answers and a public inquiry.”