U.S. refinery strike widens to include nation's largest plant

Sat Feb 21, 2015 4:30pm EST
 
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By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. refinery strike widened on its 20th day, with workers at the nation's largest refinery walking off jobs and joining picket lines on Saturday as the United Steelworkers union (USW) pushes for a new contract that improves wages and safety.

Strikes are underway or have been called at 15 plants, including 12 refineries with a fifth of U.S. crude processing capacity. The stoppages, which have forced companies to rely on trained temporary workers to keep plants running close to normal, are the largest in the refining sector since 1980.

Shortly after talks between union and oil company representatives ended on Friday night, the union notified Motiva Enterprises [MOTIV.UL] of a strike by its members at the company's 600,250 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

The USW also gave notices on Friday of strikes to begin in 24 hours at Motiva's 235,000 bpd Convent, Louisiana and 238,000 bpd Norco, Louisiana refineries and the Shell Oil Co chemical plant in Norco, the union said.

"The industry’s refusal to meaningfully address safety issues through good faith bargaining gave us no other option but to expand our work stoppage," USW International President Leo Gerard said in a statement.

Both sides indicated further negotiations this weekend had not been scheduled.

Motiva is a 50-50 joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL]. Shell's U.S. arm Shell Oil Co is the lead oil company negotiator in talks with the USW for a national agreement on safety, pay and benefits.

A Shell spokesman said the company was disappointed by the Port Arthur walkout and strike notices to the Louisiana plants.   Continued...

 
Members of the United Steel Workers union picket the Tesoro refinery in Carson, California February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr.