LONDON (AP) _ BP PLC is cutting up to 1,000 jobs, or 40 percent of the work force, at a refinery and petrochemical plant in Scotland, citing the depressed chemicals market and operational problems at the facility.
In a statement, the company said Tuesday the cuts at the Grangemouth refinery were designed to make the facility more competitive.
The cuts involve closing a polyethylene production unit within the chemicals plant as well as the oldest of three crude distillation units in the refinery, BP said.
It was unclear how many layoffs would be involved. BP said it would make ``every effort to relocate people with the appropriate skills to other BP locations, or to provide retraining, jobs search assistance and severance packages.''
BP said the cuts, which will be introduced over two years, were consistent with the recommendations of a safety task force at the plant. The company said it was investing $115 million a year to improve safety.
But union representatives expressed concern.
``We have a real fear that staff cuts of this level could endanger safety,'' said Pat Devine, regional officer of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union.
``We will be pushing hard for the company to reduce the level of redundancies and ensure the jobs that do go are on a voluntary basis.''
Grangemouth, northwest of Edinburgh, employs 2,500 people and has an annual capacity of about 10 billion metric tons of crude oil.
The Forties pipeline system, which supplies crude oil to the site, is the North Sea's biggest oil transportation and processing system, carrying around a million barrels a day, BP said.
BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, has a worldwide work force of 100,000.