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Union says time running out for new refinery contract: sources

Union says time running out for new refinery contract: sources

JANUARY 29, 2019

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The United Steelworkers union (USW) warned on Tuesday that time was running out to reach a new national agreement for U.S. refinery and chemical plant workers before the current pact expires on Friday, sources familiar with the talks said.

The USW and Shell Oil Co, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, have been in talks since Jan. 16 for an accord on wages, benefits and safety covering 30,000 refinery, chemical plant and pipeline workers.

A message sent to union members noted that less than 60 hours remain to reach a new agreement. The current contract expires shortly after 12 a.m. on Friday, the sources said.

The message also said Shell needed to “get serious about economics and our other issues,” the sources said.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said the company was working for an agreement with the union.

“We continue actively working through numerous topics to reach an agreement with the USW International Union that best ensures opportunity for our workers to continue to grow, develop and enjoy earnings that are among the most competitive in the manufacturing industry,” Fisher said.

The USW has said the talks will not be automatically extended past the contract’s expiration.

These are first talks since a breakdown in negotiations in 2015 led to a series of rolling strikes in which more than 7,000 workers walked off their jobs at 12 refineries and three chemical plants. Most strikes ended within two months.

The sources said the chances for a national strike had increased slightly because of slow paced negotiations. Going into talks, both sides said they wanted to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

This year’s negotiations made progress early on union proposals to increase health and safety representation at plants, according to the sources, but have bogged down over a USW proposal to begin replacing non-union workers who perform maintenance work with union members by 10 percent a year.

The union is seeking an 8-percent-a-year pay increase for hourly workers under a new three-year contract. U.S. refinery workers make about $40 an hour after four years on the job.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Grant McCool


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