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Letter to USW oil workers

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Below are highlights from a letter sent to all USW oil workers following letters sent to members by oil companies that are being impacted by strike action.

Safety is paramount

“During this round of negotiations, the union has made many proposals to address the safety and well being of our members. While the companies have regurgitated some of the language of these proposals in their letters to employees, thereby giving the impression that they are actually bargaining over these issues, they have, in fact, only agreed to meet and discuss them. They have, up until now, adamantly refused to bargain in good faith over these critical matters.

“The union has made specific proposals about how safety issues need to be assessed jointly with the local union and our safety committees and professionals. We’ve made proposals on how vacancies need to be reviewed and filled; on the way overtime and exceptions to the fatigue standards need continuous monitoring; and how we can insure safe staffing levels in the operations without undermining the bargaining unit. The company’s response has been to shut down any such discussion and to refuse any good faith bargaining over such issues.”

We do dangerous work

“We’ve seen more recent fires and explosions, just like the recent one in Torrance, California, for example, and now the companies are trying to operate these facilities with people who are unfamiliar with the processes and equipment. In many cases, they have never done such work in their lives. Attempting such operations is arrogant and dangerous, and a threat to our communities.

“We shouldn’t be expected to work long hours for weeks on end without a break. We shouldn’t be expected to work in places where, on average, we have a fire every week of the year. We shouldn’t be expected to work in places where equipment is oil and in need of maintenance, but the company considers too costly to take offline and fix properly because it might slow production.”

Industry greed should not short change us

“We have tried to have discussions about the cost of health care benefits. In particular we want to discuss the huge out of pocket expenditures for a single person family. The company has refused to even consider such a change. These companies can well afford a backstop for families that incur such high costs in a year so that they run up against their out of pocket maximums. We have been asking for a minor reduction in that maximum level that is not even pennies on a dollar, but they insist they will not budge on this matter. This treatment from a multi billion dollar industry is mean spirited and unnecessary.”

Our issues are important

“This round of oil bargaining is different than some of the past. There is no question about that. The National Oil Bargaining Conference, which is made up of all our oil local union leadership, unanimously adopted this agenda in October of lat year. The USW bargaining team and the Oil Policy committee have worked hand in hand throughout this set of negotiations.

“We are committed to bargaining a fair contract that we can insure gets implemented. There is a history of the companies’ settling agreements by promising to address critical issues, but ignoring them after bargaining has concluded.

“They meet and discuss. That’s it. They have not bargained with us in good faith. That’s been the case with our health care committees and the fatigue standards that they abused. We can’t accept more open ended promises. We need to be able to enforce all aspects of our contracts, and if the company means to do what it claims, then they should not be afraid of that idea.”

Edited from letter by Claira Lloyd

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