UK - Scotland's only crude oil refinery will today continue shutting down operations in anticipation of a strike over pensions, set to threaten fuel supplied to Scotland and northern England as soon as Friday.

Ineos, which runs the Grangemouth site, has today again appealed for talks, saying there is still time to prevent the walk-out by 1.200 members of the Unite union, which will effectively close the plan for a month because of safety issues.

A spokesman for the company told IPE today production will be further shut down today and tomorrow since it claims the Union has turned down request for negotiation.

Unite announced at the end of last week its members have voted in favour of the industrial action on April 27 and 28 in protest at plans to close the refinery's defined benefit (DB) pension scheme to new entrants and reduce provision for existing scheme members.

Unite has said the company has no ground for closing the pension scheme: "Despite a massive reduction in company contributions and the company's stripping of £40m in pension assets, [the scheme] is in surplus by 11%."

The scheme is currently funded to 120%.

Tom Crotty, chief executive of Ineos, said in a written statement on Sunday: "The union's planned strike could have significant consequences for Scotland and the north of England, and we would urge them to work with us to find a way of resolving the issue."

Calling the strike action premature, Crotty added: "Under the consultation timetable we had previously agreed, there is still ample time for discussions to take place and for the dispute to be resolved."

Ineos, which acquired Grangemouth from BP in 2005, says its current pension benefit costs the firm over a quarter of the salary bill at the refinery and has proposed a reform through a consultation which is due to end on June 30.

No major changes will be implemented until then, according to the firm.

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