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CTV Montreal: Union reps fight to save Shell refinery

Updated: Fri Jan. 08 2010 5:09:25 PM

Union leaders at the Montreal-East Shell refinery say they aren’t going down without a fight.

Shell Canada announced Thursday the 76-year-old refinery would be converted into a storage centre for gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels. Some 450 people are currently employed at the factory, and the union said about 2,500 indirect spin-off jobs also rely on the plant.

The union discussed Friday the planned closure and ways to minimize the impact on employees, as well as possible strategies to reverse the decision.

“It’s going to take some work, that’s for sure, but that’s why we’re asking all the governments to sit with us. I think it’s possible to do it,” said Shell Union President Jean-Claude Rocheleau.

Shell says the 130,000-barrel-a-day refinery no longer fits with the company’s long-term plans, and oil industry analyst Robert Mark of Toronto’s MacDougall, MacDougall and McTier said he understands, because it’s hard for any refinery to make money these days.

“It’s a very tough refining business right now because there’s a lot of oversupply, so unfortunately these older facilities are the ones that typically end up on the chopping block. That’s why it’s really not a surprise for this refinery,” said Mark.

The closure means fixed costs for a shared pipeline and other expenses will rise for the Petro-Canada plant and Marsulex, a small air-quality and industrial waste solutions company, putting pressure on those plants as well.

“That will put a lot of those companies in danger,” said Rocheleau.

Mark, however, disagrees, saying he doesn’t see it having a crippling effect on those companies, and also doesn’t expect the closure to affect regional gas prices at the pump.

Montreal East Mayor Robert Coutu said he is prepared to work on saving the refinery, but also knows his municipality has to work on attracting various industries.

“It’s one day at a time. We’re going to manage costs; if we have to better manage our city, with fewer people… we’ll see,” said Coutu.

Shell accounts for 15 per cent of the town’s budget.

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