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Talks hopes dashed in refinery jobs dispute

Hopes of a breakthrough in the bitter jobs dispute at an oil refinery collapsed today when expected talks failed to go ahead despite a series of wildcat strikes breaking out across the country.

Downing Street announced this morning that the conciliation services Acas had convened a meeting between management at the Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire and union leaders following the shock decision to sack almost 650 workers who have been taking unofficial industrial action for the past week.

Strikes spread to several power stations and other sites amid fears of a full blown industrial dispute, with some activists warning power workers could join in, threatening electricity supplies.

Union leaders and Acas officials waited for the talks to start, but it was revealed later that they never got under way.

Acas said in a statement: "We were invited by Total management for potential talks between the parties today.

"After discussions between Total management and their contractors, they decided not to go ahead with the talks. We remain in touch with the parties."

Union sources said their officials waited for four hours before being told Total "no longer felt the need" to have a meeting.

The sacked workers were told they have until Monday to reapply for their jobs.