- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
FALL-OUT from the closure of the Murco oil refinery in Milford Haven is being examined by a Welsh Assembly committee.
The Enterprise and Business Committee is carrying out an inquiry into the impact of large-scale job losses in Wales. On Wednesday (1 July) it scrutinised written evidence submitted by Murco. Assembly Members also questioned economy minister Edwina Hart and representatives of Unite the Union about the success of government policies to support ex-employees and stimulate the local economy.
Mid and West AM Joyce Watson is a member of the Enterprise and Business Committee. She said:
“When the deal to save Murco fell through, the Welsh Government reacted quickly; by setting up the task force, working with trade unions to support workers and investing in projects to boost the area, it mitigated the impact of the closure. There are always lessons to be learnt, though. The committee is exploring what worked at Murco, and elsewhere in Wales, and what could be improved for the future.”
Following the last-minute collapse of a deal to save the plant, in April 2014 the Welsh Government set up the Murco Task Force to help cushion the blow to workers and Pembrokeshire’s economy. The Welsh Government told the committee:
“Our intention is to minimise both direct and indirect job losses associated with the Murco Refinery and its supply chain, both immediately and in the longer term as the ripple effect of the closure is felt.
“We had a long term close relationship with Murco as a Regionally Important company and key employer. Following the announcement of 404 redundancies, the First Minister liaised with UK Government to facilitate the sale of the refinery as a
going concern which would have retained a very similar sized workforce. However, the deal fell through at the last minute when a private investor withdrew. We therefore established the Murco Task Force of key high level stakeholders to focus on mitigating the impact of the sale on the local economy.
“We have provided a portfolio of financial support programmes for businesses in the area to stimulate growth, including providing working capital, giving business rate relief and addressing skills and training needs for recovery and diversification. By working collaboratively across Welsh Government we have focused existing and new resources to deploy a Pembrokeshire Fighting Fund of £4m, which is creating and safeguarding 440 jobs.
“Support for individuals has been made available through ReAct, Careers Wales, Job Centre Plus, Business Wales and Penna including one to one careers advice and coaching, workshops, jobs fairs and financial support for retraining. Apprentices
have been matched to a new employer through Pembrokeshire College. We have provided job matching initiatives including Talent Retention Scheme online portal and vacancy trawl and circulation through Penna. We drew on our Sector Panels, Anchor and Regionally Important Companies, and the Haven Enterprise Zone networks to identify growth and recruitment opportunities, linking job creation with those looking for work locally though grant offer letters and the Job Centre Plus Employer Manager.
“Pembrokeshire has been prioritised for infrastructure developments including Superfast Broadband and road improvements to make the region more attractive for inward investment.
“It is important to note that the true effect on the supply chain, and indirect job losses has not yet been fully felt. Whilst the Murco Task Force drove action in the short term, the medium and long term economic development initiatives are being headed up by the Haven Enterprise Zone and Swansea Bay City and Region.
“The direct job losses at Murco were phased over a 7 month period. The most recent statistics available from Murco, dated 1 April, show that 57 per cent of Murco staff had found employment, more than half within Pembrokeshire. 24 per cent were still searching. The intention is for them to be matched, as appropriate, with jobs being created through the Pembrokeshire Fighting Fund. Only 93 Murco staff and 89 contractors have claimed job seekers allowance, with 45 and 37 still signing on, which reflects how quickly a large number of displaced staff found new work.
“The way in which Governments and agencies have come together to mitigate the effects of the closure of the Murco Refinery on the local economy has been identified as an example of best practice. Lessons learnt are currently being employed in managing the redundancies being made by Magnox in North Wales.
“Cardiff University produced an evidence base of the economic risks at the start of the process and has been commissioned to assess the actual impact and evaluate the project.”