Union workers at US refineries could strike by Wednesday

30 January 2012 23:09  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Refineries are in negotiations to prevent a union workers strike, which could happen as soon as Wednesday, the United Steelworkers (USW) said on Monday.

The USW is negotiating a new three-year contract with refineries that may result in a strike if the two sides do not reach an agreement.  

“Right now, we’re continuing to negotiate and there hasn’t been a decision made to strike yet,” said USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock.

According to Hancock, the union has to give a 24-hour notice to refineries before its workers go on strike. 

If the workers strike, refineries may begin assigning temporary replacement workers to operate refinery units.

Valero spokesman Bill Day said the company remains in negotiations with its local union chapters in both Port Arthur in Texas and Memphis in Tennessee.

“Valero is hopeful that an agreement will be reached without a work stoppage…. Even if the deadline passes without an agreement, we intend to keep talking with our local unions,” Day said. “Valero is not involved in the national pattern bargaining, but again, we’re hopeful that there will be no work stoppage.”

BP spokesman Scott Dean said: “Productive discussions are ongoing at the national and local level, and we remain optimistic that an agreement will be reached that is fair and equitable to both sides.”

BP declined to comment on which US refineries would be affected by the negotiations. The company has refineries in Carson, California; Cherry Point, Washington; Texas City, Texas; Toledo, Ohio; and Whiting, Indiana.

In 2009, a USW strike was averted because of the downturn in the US economy. “We didn’t think it was a good time to strike during a recession,” Hancock said.  

The USW represents more than 30,000 workers in the refining industry.

By: Anna Matherne

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