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Oil bargaining heads toward wire

Hamilton said the industry, represented by Shell Oil Co., also hasn’t budged on health and safety provisions the union wants in its new three-year contract.

By Dan Wallach, [email protected] (409) 838-2876

Published 02:46 p.m., Monday, January 30, 2012

The national oil contract bargaining is heading toward a midnight Tuesday deadline, but the two sides seem far apart on pay and safety rules, a local union member said today.

Eric Hamilton, chairman of the workmen’s committee at the Motiva Enterprises Port Arthur refinery, said the industry side to date has offered a pay increase of between 1.5 percent and 2 percent a year.

“That’s ludicrous,” he said. “They make billions and billions a year.”

The national oil contract would cover about 30,000 union oil refinery workers who produce about two-thirds of the nation’s gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. In Southeast Texas, there are about 3,000 unionized workers at the four motor fuels refineries. Along the Gulf Coast, there are about 9,000 unionized workers covered by the contract.

Hamilton said the industry, represented by Shell Oil Co., also hasn’t budged on health and safety provisions the union wants in its new three-year contract.

The provisions would require refiners to install newer, safer equipment and to cut down on overtime that causes worker fatigue.

Hamilton said the industry has favored fatigue provisions that are part of American Petroleum Institute guidelines.

“At Motiva, we’ve been following a stronger standard that what API has,” Hamilton said.

Refinery union members – part of the United Steelworkers – in November had already authorized a strike in case there is no agreement reached.

On Saturday, the United Steelworkers said, “The United Steelworkers union warned that a strike by U.S. refinery workers as early as 12 a.m. Wednesday was becoming more likely due to the lack of a more substantive response from the industry.”

On Sunday, the union offered this terse update: “Contracts talks are ongoing this evening. The union and the company continue to meet to try and reach an agreement.”

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