A pan-European group of unions has called on governments in Britain, France, Belgium and Switzerland to step in and support employment at oil refineries threatened with closure after troubled refiner Petroplus
had its credit lines frozen.

As European refinery closures continue, European states will be forced to import ever more refined products, said the unions - CGT, CFDT and CFE-CGC in France, ABVV-FGTB in Belgium, UNIA in Switzerland and the UK's Unite - in a joint statement.

This not only affects the economic equilibrium of each country, but also threatens our jobs and our independence in terms of energy.

Late last week Petroplus said it would begin temporary shutdowns at its Antwerp (Belgium), Petit Couronne (France) and Cressier (Switzerland) plants after a consortium of 13 banks froze a $1 billion (641.7 million pound) credit facility it needed to buy crude oil.

On Friday a source close to the situation said a provisional financing agreement had been found which would help to keep going an intensive round of talks involving banks, the company and local governments.

In their letter the unions said European governments owed it to local refiners to ensure imported refined products are subject to the same rules concerning the environment, safety and working conditions as those governing Europe's refined products.

This sector has for years made millions of dollars in profits. There can be no question that employees are now being sacrificed, they said.

On Monday, a local union official said workers at the French Petit Couronne refinery owned by Petroplus will meet union representatives from nearby refineries on Wednesday to decide whether to call for strike action over the planned shutdowns.

(Reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)