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Oil Workers in U.S. Begin First Large-Scale Strike Since 1980

From an article by Lynn Doan and Barbara Powell published on 1 Feb 2015 by Bloomberg under the headline:Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 14.48.37

“Oil Workers in U.S. Begin First Large-Scale Strike Since 1980”

Shell activated a “contingency plan”

(Bloomberg) — The United Steelworkers union, which represents employees at more than 200 U.S. oil refineries, terminals, pipelines and chemical plants, began a strike at nine sites on Sunday, the biggest walkout called since 1980.

The USW started the work stoppage after failing to reach agreement on a labor contract that expired Sunday, saying in a statement that it “had no choice.” The union rejected five contract offers made by Royal Dutch Shell Plc on behalf of oil companies since negotiations began on Jan. 21.

The United Steelworkers union hasn’t called a strike nationally since 1980, when a stoppage lasted three months. A full walkout of USW workers would threaten to disrupt as much as 64 percent of U.S. fuel production. Shell and union representatives began negotiations amid the biggest collapse in U.S. oil prices since 2008.

“Shell refused to provide us with a counteroffer and left the bargaining table,” USW International President Leo Gerard said in a statement early Sunday. “We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage.”

Ray Fisher, a spokesman for The Hague, Netherlands-based Shell, said by e-mail on Saturday that the company remained “committed to resolving our differences with USW at the negotiating table and hope to resume negotiations as early as possible.”

The USW asked employers, which include Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., for “substantial” pay increases, stronger rules to prevent fatigue and measures to keep union workers rather than contract employees on the job, Gary Beevers, the USW international vice president who manages the union’s oil sector, said in an interview in Pittsburgh in October.

Across U.S.

The refineries called on to strike span the U.S., from Tesoro Corp.’s plants in Martinez, California, Carson, California, and Anacortes, Washington, to Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Catlettsburg complex in Kentucky to three sites in Texas, according to the USW’s statement.

The sites in Texas are Shell’s Deer Park complex, Marathon’s Galveston Bay plant and LyondellBasell Industries NV’s Houston facility, the statement shows. The walkout also includes Marathon’s Houston Green cogeneration plant in Texas and Shell’s Deer Park chemical plant.

More refineries are standing by to join the sites on strike, according to two people familiar with the plan who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The remaining USW-represented sites are operating under rolling, 24-hour contract extensions, the USW said.

Refinery Shares

Shell activated a “contingency plan” to continue operations at the Deer Park refinery, Fisher said on Saturday.

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