Image courtesy of United Steelworkers.

A nearly month long United Steelworkers strike extended to three more refineries and a chemical facility Sunday after negotiations between the union and the oil industry stalled.

Union workers at the Motiva Enterprises refinery in Port Arthur, Texas walked out Friday and were later joined by workers at two Motiva refineries and a chemical facility in Louisiana.

Motiva is a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Refining.

“The company has activated its contingency plans to ensure a safe and orderly handover of operations at all three sites from union-represented employees to fully trained and qualified Motiva employees, who will safely operate the refineries,” Motiva said.

Shell is representing the oil industry during the negotiations.

The latest round of walkouts brings the total number of striking workers to about 6,550.

Union workers staged strikes earlier this month at 11 other refineries and plants across the United States after a national contract covering 65 facilities expired.

Employees at other facilities continue to work under a 24 hour rolling contract extension.

Only one refinery has been shut down during the strike for previously scheduled maintenance.

Shell said it has offered the union workers a 2 percent pay raise during the first two years of a proposed three year agreement and a 2.5 percent raise during the third year.

The oil industry also said it would study worker fatigue concerns.

Shell said a key sticking point during the negotiations has been the role of non-union contractors who preform daily maintenance at refineries and plants.

The USW has asked that the contractors be replaced with union workers, a request the oil industry said will hurt hiring flexibility.

“Hiring flexibility is a proven way to protect our core Shell workforce and the long-term economic viability of our workforce. This strategy has served us all well, as we have not had to conduct any layoffs in decades,” Shell said in a letter to the union.

The strike is now affecting one-fifth of total refining capacity in the United States.

Sources close to the negotiations told Reuters talks may start up again by the the middle of the week although representatives from both sides said no date has been set.

The union’s key demands include wage raises, having employers cover a larger part of health insurance premiums, cutting the number of non-union contractors that can work at a facility, improving safety, reducing overtime and fixing understaffing issues.


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