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USW strike updates

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Fair contracts, safe jobs

On Friday 6 February it was reported that the United Steelworkers (USW) union were to sponsor a National Day of Action for fair contracts and safe jobs throughout the oil industry on Saturday 7 February. As part of this plant gate rallies were scheduled at 65 refineries and union members at almost 200 other facilities across the US, including terminals, pipelines and petrochemical plants. USW International President Leo W. Gerard said that the National Day of Action should demonstrate to top management at the US’ biggest oil companies that union members are united in the fight for respect at the bargaining table and dignity in their workplaces.

Gerard commented, “corporate greed and management’s stubborn refusal to accept input from our union on issues like training, staffing levels, and fatigue from excessive overtime have resulted in a fatality rate for workers in the oil industry that is much higher than the national average. We simply cannot trust management at these companies to prioritise workers’ health and safety ahead of profits.”

More join the battle

Workers at BP’s Whiting, Indiana and Toledo, Ohio refinery joined the USW’s unfair labour practice strike against the oil industry over the weekend. The union gave BP management notice on Friday 6 February that approximately 1100 members of USW Local 7-1 at the Whiting refinery and 340 members of Local 346-3 on Saturday would join nearly 3800 USW oil workers already on a unfair labour practice (ULP) strike at nine refineries in California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington. In addition to health and safety issues, contracting out and health care, the USW ULP strike is over the oil companies’ bad faith bargaining, including the refusal to bargain over mandatory subjects; undue delays in providing information; impeded bargaining; and threats issued to workers if they joined the ULP strike.

Gerard said that the oil industry is long overdue to address many of the issues the union brought to the table that directly impact workers’ health and safety. “We are absolutely committed to negotiating a fair contract that improves safety conditions throughout the industry. Management cannot continue to resist allowing workers a stronger voice on issues that could very well make the difference between life and death for too many of them.”

USW negotiators are reportedly determined to resolve the members’ central issues. USW International Vice President, Gary Beevers has commented, “after long days of discussions with the industry’s lead company, Shell Oil, little progress has been made on our members’ central issues concerning health and safety, fatigue, inadequate staffing levels that differ from what is shown on paper, contracting out of daily maintenance jobs, high out of pocket and health care costs. In addition, Shell has failed to accept the no retrogression language that refers to acceptance of previous agreements with the industry. We will not relinquish 50 years of progress in NOBP bargaining.”

USW International Vice President of Administration, Tom Conway added, “our workers need enforceable contract language on their issues that holds the industry accountable. It is amazing that an industry, which has such a potential for danger both in the workplace and within the surrounding communities of their facilities, is refusing to engage in any serious dialogue with their work force about issues which are central to their mission and the development of a qualified, well trained work force about issues which are central to their mission and the development of a qualified, well trained work force to meet future needs. According, the USW has been compelled to expand the ULP strike to now include 11 refineries around the nation. The USW urges the industry to begin to engage in a more serious dialogue.”

Edited from press releases by Claira Lloyd

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