Union rejects second U.S. refinery contract proposal from oil companies

Employer proposal falls short: USW
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 01/28/2015

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The United Steelworkers on Tuesday rejected the second proposal for a new U.S. refinery workers contract offered by oil company representatives, saying it failed to adequately address key concerns, according to a text message sent by the union to its members.

"Industry's second proposal falls far short — inadequate and fails to address any key concerns of membership," the message, which was also sent to news media, read. "All units have been instructed to reject. Stay strong!"

The Steelworkers union is seeking annual pay raises double those of the last agreement. It also wants work given to non-union contractors to go to USW members, a tighter policy to prevent workplace fatigue, and reductions in members' out-of-pocket payments for health care.

Negotiations between the USW and refiners were continuing said a spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which is the lead negotiator the refinery owners.

"Negotiations continue with USW representatives, and Shell remains optimistic that a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached with the USW," said Shell spokesman Ray Fisher.

During negotiations in 2012, at least five contract proposals were rejected before an agreement was reached just hours before the contract was set to expire.

The last nationwide refinery workers strike was in 1980 and lasted for three months.

Union and oil company negotiators met for a seventh day of negotiations on Tuesday ahead of the current contract expiration at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday in the time zone where each refinery is located.

Shell is leading the talks on behalf of companies including supermajors such as Exxon Mobil Corp and BP Plc and smaller companies such as HollyFrontier Corp and Delek.

The union and refineries have both prepared for a possible strike, which the union signaled on Monday may be needed to win concessions from the oil companies.

The USW represents workers at 63 refineries that account for two-thirds of U.S. refining capacity.

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