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Massive Strike Affects Refineries

Massive Strike Affects Refineries
Image from Flickr by Marcin Wichary


Massive Strike Affects Refineries

Shell by Marcin Wichary

Image from Flickr by Marcin Wichary

The fourth week of the biggest refinery strike in the US within 35 years saw workers walking along protest lines. The strike includes workers from 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of the national production capacity.

The negotiations are planned to be underway, paving way for resumption of talks for the walk-out to come to an end. Around 6,550 members of the United Steelworkers union (USW) staged walkouts at 15 plants, which include 12 refineries.

No specific date has been fixed for restarting the negotiation, representatives of both sides said.

The strike has been called for by U.S. workers seeking more compensation in the growing economy. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has decided to raise salaries to at least $9 an hour. The West Coast port workers were able to enter a deal with the management after a disagreement that lasted a month.

The workers of the refinery stopped working on Feb. 1 as talks for a three-year contract broke down between the USW and lead oil company negotiator Shell Oil Co. The country’s biggest refinery, Motiva, has undergone work stoppage.

In the Shell and Motiva plants, offers are made to raise the pay by 2 percent in each of the first two years and 2.5 percent hike in the third year. A letter making this offer said, “Hiring flexibility is a proven way to protect our core Shell workforce and the long-term economic viability of our workforce.”

“This strategy has served us all well, as we have not had to conduct any layoffs in decades.”

The letter issued by Shell failed to address the absence of “no-retrogression” language keeping the agreements of the previous contracts of safety in place. According to the union leaders, the dearth of no-retrogression has become the sticking point of the negotiation.

The spokesman of Shell, Ray Fisher, confirms that no-retrogression could not be the focus of the talks as of now.

Fisher said, “The four key areas of focus in the negotiations are wages, health care, use of contractors and fatigue.”

He further admitted, “The union’s ‘no retrogression’ proposal has not yet been a focus area of our negotiations.”

The USW are demanding a new deal that would cover 30,000 workers at 63 U.S. refineries, consisting of two-third of domestic capacity. In the meantime, the managements of the refineries are using replacement workers to run the plants at near-normal rates.

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