21 March 2012 21:44 [Source: ICIS news]HOUSTON (ICIS)--Union workers at Tesoro’s 145,000 bbl/day Anacortes refinery in Washington gave the negotiating committee authorisation to strike, as the group maintains that the refiner has not met the its bargaining rights, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Last year, the refiner reduced several benefits without first consulting with the union, the group said.
“The [oil workers] are very serious about not giving up their legal right to bargain over benefits,” said Lynne Hancock, spokeswoman for the United Steelworkers (USW) union.
The prior contract ended on 31 January, and the refinery has since been running using 24-hour extensions. The union is required to give the refinery officials 24-hour notice before going on strike.
A Tesoro council meeting will take place this weekend.
Tesoro’s 166,000 bbl/day Martinez refinery in California is continuing to negotiate, though the union members authorised the negotiating committee to strike, Hancock said.
Tesoro spokesman Tina Barbee said the company "continues negotiations at our USW-represented Tesoro refineries and work toward ratification of all agreements. In the unfortunate event of a strike, we will activate our contingency plans, which are considered confidential for proprietary and competitive reasons".
The contract negotiations followed an announcement by Tesoro, which said that the company would cut benefit packages for active and retired employees. The announcement came six months after the 2 April 2010 explosion and fire at the refinery, which resulted in the death of seven workers.
USW officials said Tesoro made the changes on 1 January 2011 without consulting with the union.
Workers at all the USW-represented refineries for Tesoro, except for its 94,300 bbl/day Wilmington facility in California and the Hawaii refinery, are continuing to negotiate and have not accepted any contract offers from Tesoro.
The contract for Wilmington expires on 30 April.Hancock said the 93,500 bbl/day Hawaii refinery settled a contract early on Wednesday, although that refinery is in the process of being sold.
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