Italian oil workers are seeking a deal for a Russian-owned refinery

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ORTIGIA, Sicily (AP) – Thousands of workers at a Russian-owned oil refinery in Sicily protested on Friday at the threat of closure as Europe imposes a total embargo on Russian oil from next month.

Workers are demanding action from Italy’s new economic development minister, Alfonso Urso, who is meeting with union leaders and others in Rome to find a solution for the refinery, which employs 3,500 people and indirectly supports another 6,500 jobs.

“Russian ships will stop on December 5 given the embargo decided by the previous government,” said union spokesman Luciano Spataro in Sicily. “We hope that the new government will find a solution to avoid this catastrophe.”

Urso told reporters in Rome that another meeting on the future of the plant would be held before mid-December.

About 20% of Italy’s oil is refined at the ISAB Srl plant, owned by the Russian company Lukoil. The plant and related activities generate half of the gross domestic product in the Sicilian province of Syracuse and 8% of the region’s economic activity.

Only since the invasion of Ukraine has the refinery been able to process oil from Russia because the banks refused to take the risk of lending to buy non-Russian oil. The workers are demanding either the privatization of the refinery or that the state export credit agency SACE act as guarantor for future loans to purchase oil from non-Russian sources.

“As soon as one link is broken, the entire chain collapses,” said union leader Vera Carasi. “So if Lukoil closes, we have to close the entire group of petrochemical companies.”

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