Workers protest closure of Matosinhos refinery in Portugal

Portuguese energy supplier group Galp Energia has announced the closure of a crude oil refinery owned by its subsidiary Petrogal in Matosinhos, which is likely to affect over a thousand jobs

February 04, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Workers Protest-Portugal
Workers’ protest at the Galp Energia’s headquarters in Lisbon.(Photo: abrilabril.pt) 

On Tuesday, February 2, workers and trade unionists demonstrated outside the office of energy supplier group Galp Energia in Lisbon, protesting the company’s decision to permanently cease operations at a crude oil refinery owned by its subsidiary Petróleos de Portugal SA’s (Petrogal) in Matosinhos. The call for the mobilization was given by several trade unions, including the Central Commission of Workers of Petrogal, General Confederation of the Portuguese Workers (CGTP-IN), SITE Norte, and others. The protesters demanded that the company reverse its decision to close the oil refinery.

Galp Energia had announced plans to close Petrogal’s 110,000-b/d refinery in Matosinhos in December 2020 citing the COVID-19 pandemic and in compliance with the directive for energy transition by the European Commission (EC) for reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. Workers of the refinery and in the energy sector, along with trade unions and progressive sections including the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), had opposed the company’s decision to close the plant.

Abrilabril.pt reported that the closure of the refinery will lead to the direct dismissal of over 400 workers and indirectly affect around 1,000 people who work in companies operating for the refinery. 

In addition to the demand to resume production, the protesting workers have called for investment and professional training in the refinery with a view to its modernization and adaptation to the production of new products. The workers demanded protection of their employment with rights and in the national interest. On Tuesday, a demonstration was also organized near the official residence of the prime minister to demand immediate state intervention in the issue.

According to Members of European Parliament (MEPs) from the PCP, Galp Energia had justified the closure citing problems arising from the reduced refined consumption during the pandemic. It then used the pretext of a “clear consolidation of a context favorable to energy transition′” following the European Commission (EC) guidelines. 

The MEPs stated that “It is evident that the end of the pandemic will dictate a return to consumption at pre-COVID-19 levels, and another refinery will have to produce the fuel that has been produced so far!”

The MEPs alleged that this closure represents an attack on Portugal’s energy sovereignty and will also result in the redundancy of hundreds of skilled workers, with evident socio-economic consequences. “It is a clear example of how public funds (national or EU) can, instead of contributing to cohesion and development, promote unemployment and inequality,” added the MEPs.

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