Texas chemical plants prepare for possible strike

29 January 2009 23:12  [Source: ICIS news]

Texas chems prepare for possible strikeBy Lane Kelley

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Texas chemical plants in the Houston area will keep running even if no labour contract is reached by a Sunday deadline and union workers strike, company officials said on Thursday.

Labour agreements that cover 4,200 Houston-area employees and 30,000 energy and chemical workers nationwide, most of them with the United Steelworkers union, expire early on Sunday, according to company and union officials.

Chevron-Phillips' chemical plant in Pasadena, Texas, has 400 union members who could go on strike if no agreement is reached. Replacement workers are lined up, said Brian Cain, spokesman for the company.

"Our operations will continue to run safely," Cain said. "They will be staffed by trained personnel."

Other Houston area chemical plants would do the same. Shell's Deer Park site employs 900 union workers, but the plant will continue running if they strike, said David McKinney, communications manager at the plant.

"We're not going to close down," McKinney said, "We intend to keep running as is."

The Houston area includes 413 chemical plants that employ more than 33,000 workers, making the Texas Gulf coast the hub of the US petrochemical industry. Many units already are operating at reduced capacity due to recessionary pressures.

Texas facilities affected by the contract talks in addition to Shell and Chevron-Phillips include INEOS NOVA’s plant in Texas City; BP’s Texas City refinery and chemical plant; BP Pipeline; LyondellBasell Industries’ refinery in Houston; and Pasadena Refining System.

The INEOS NOVA chemical plant in Texas City has been down since Hurricane Ike struck the region in late September, said Susan Thanepohn, communications manager for the company.

LyondellBasell also will keep its Houston refinery running with current non-union employees in the event of a strike by its 500 union workers, said spokesman David Harpole. "We are prepared to run the facility safely and efficiently," Harpole said.

An official at the United Steelworkers union Local 13-1 in Houston said strike preparations were part of the routine in every contract negotiation.

"You can't go into negotiations and not have a plan to strike," said the union official, who asked not to be named. "This is done every time we go into a negotiation."

The official said negotiations between the local and the companies continued on Thursday in Austin, Texas. A media report said the major issues in the talks were wages, medical insurance, and health and safety concerns.

For more on Shell, Chevron-Phillips and other Texas plants, visit ICIS plants and projects
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Lane Kelley
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