STAFF at the Essar Oil refinery in Stanlow are being offered a fixed-price voluntary ‘redundancy’ package, thought to be worth £30,000.
Bosses at the plant say the offer is open to all 1,000 employees, and will allow them to make “additional efficiencies” as they close two smaller refining units and focus on producing “higher value products”.
The Leader reported last week that Essar denied reports it intended to sell Britain’s second largest oil refinery, which it bought from Shell in 2011 for $350 million.
Rumours had also been circulating that redundancies were being discussed with staff at the facility, near Ellesmere Port.
Ian Cotton, head of communications and community at Essar Oil (UK) Ltd, said the move should not be described as voluntary “redundancies”, rather an “entirely voluntary leaver incentive scheme”.
Sources have indicated that the packages are worth about £30,000 – a figure that has been neither confirmed nor denied by Essar.
Mr Cotton told this newspaper: “The amount on offer is a fixed sum to all employees – but we consider that detail confidential between ourselves and our staff.”
The company has not indicated how many volunteers it envisages coming forward.
In a statement explaining the move, Mr Cotton said: “Essar Oil UK announced in February our intention to increase the production of higher value products from the Stanlow refinery by closing the smaller of our two crude refining units later this year.
“As a result of this optimised configuration going forward, organisational changes may be required to create additional efficiencies.
“Before considering any changes, Essar Oil UK has in conjunction with a proposal from a specially formed Joint Working Group of employees from across the company, decided to offer an entirely voluntary leaver incentive scheme to staff who may be considering alternative options for their future career.
“The offer is available to all employees, but will be granted on a discretionary basis, dependent on the right blend of skills and experience required to help us build a positive and long term future for our business.”
The refinery supplies over 15 per cent of the UK's transport fuels, which equates to an annual production of more than two billion litres of jet fuel, three billion litres of petrol and 3.5 billion litres of diesel. It also processes over 11 million tonnes of crude oil each year.
The Financial Times reported last month that the plant was on the verge of closure, quoting two anonymous industry sources.
The company, part of the Indian Essar Group, said refining margins had been “exceptionally poor” but stressed its commitment to working in the region and in the UK.