Total to reopen refinery in northern France

16th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

French oil giant Total's refinery in Dunkirk, northern France, is set to reopen on Monday after a decision to shut it down sparked nationwide strikes, a company spokesman said.

Work would begin to empty the dormant petrol tanks there, said the spokesman, but the long-term future of the site remained unclear.

This step could clear the way for refining to resume or for the site to be converted for other activities.

Total, one of the world's biggest oil companies, had said it would end refining at the plant due to changes in the petroleum market, but could convert jobs there into activities other than refining.

Workers at the site staged several strikes against the plan in January and were joined in February by their colleagues at other refineries across the country, causing some pumps to run dry.

A court last month ordered that the refinery reopen. Total has appealed that ruling but the spokesman said that the emptying of the petrol installations "is an indispensible step, whatever the future of the refinery."

The plant's Sud labour union representative Philippe Wullens said even the temporary resumption of activity to empty the tanks represented a victory for the workers and was the "first step in the reopening of the site."

© 2010 AFP

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