Shell workers strike threatens closure of Europe's biggest refinery

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Shell workers strike threatens closure of Europe's biggest refinery

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A strike by Shell workers means Europe’s largest oil refinery is heading for a gradual shut down. There is also reduced output at some of the Anglo-Dutch group’s other plants in the Netherlands.

Over 1,500 workers at Rotterdam’s Pernis refinery have walked out in a dispute over raising their retirement age to 65 and making them pay pension contributions.

Union representative Egbert Schellenberg said they could close the refinery completely in around a week’s time and he warned that the dispute will effect prices at petrol stations.

Some workers have not joined the industrial action, but the unions say they could. Talks are deadlocked and the Dutch government has said it will not intervene.

Rein Willems, Director of Shell Netherlands, said: “We’ve asked the unions over and over to think again about this. Every worker in this country pays contributions to their pensions and in these difficult times Shell workers can’t expect to pay nothing and let the company pay it all.”

There has not been a strike at Shell Netherlands since 1979.

The negotiations leading up to this strike have been going on for a year.

The unions claim that Shell is trying to cut its pension costs at the same time it reported a net profit of 18 billion euros last year.

The company countered that the pension arrangements it is offering are better than those of its competitors.

The unions are also threatening to broadened the dispute to include the company’s natural-gas production in the north of the Netherlands.