Page last updated at 21:51 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 22:51 UK

Leaders meet over refinery strike

tanker filling up
Extra fuel supplies have been delivered to petrol stations

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister Gordon Brown have met to discuss the strike which has closed the Grangemouth oil refinery.

The meeting, in the House of Commons, lasted about 20 minutes.

A Downing Street spokesman said the two men had discussed the steps being taken to resolve the dispute.

The 48-hour stoppage at the refinery has disrupted fuel supplies and brought almost half of the UK's North Sea oil production to a halt.

Mr Salmond said there was enough fuel for everyone who needed it in Scotland.

Lost production

An adviser to Mr Salmond said: "The first minister and the prime minister met for private meeting in Mr Brown's office in the House of Commons to discuss the industrial dispute in Grangemouth and how the two sides could be brought together to settle their differences."

Business Secretary John Hutton will visit the oil refinery on Tuesday morning, as the two-day stoppage comes to an end.

His Scottish counterpart, Finance and Business Minister John Swinney, will also visit Grangemouth.

Some 1,200 Unite union members walked out of the central Scotland Ineos plant on Sunday in a dispute over pensions.

Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe was booed by picketers during a visit to the site on Monday.

The tycoon was heckled by workers taking part in the 48-hour walkout which ends at 0600 BST on Tuesday.

Jim Ratcliffe. Pic by PA
Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe was booed as he left the Grangemouth site

The Forties oil pipeline, which delivers 30% of the UK's oil output from the North Sea, was closed as a direct result of the dispute.

The disruption has helped push oil prices to a fresh high of just below $120 a barrel.

Fuel has begun arriving at ports across Scotland to ease pressure on the forecourts where increased buying has led to shortages for some retailers.

About 65,000 tonnes of fuel is being shipped in to replace some of the lost production from the Ineos oil refinery, Scotland's main fuel supplier.

Although workers are set to return to work on Tuesday morning, it could take some time before normal operations are resumed.

The Unite union has not called any fresh strikes but urged Ineos to halt proposed pension changes if talks were to restart.

The two sides held negotiations last week at the conciliation service Acas but they collapsed without agreement.


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