U.S. refinery strike affects one-fifth of national capacity

Sun Feb 22, 2015 8:52pm EST
 
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By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The largest U.S. refinery strike in 35 years entered its fourth week on Sunday as workers at 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of national production capacity were walking picket lines.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said talks may resume by mid-week to end the walkout by 6,550 members of the United Steelworkers union (USW) at 15 plants, including the 12 refineries.

Representatives of both sides said no date has been set to restart negotiations, however.

The strike comes as U.S. workers seek more pay in a strengthening economy. Wal-Mart Stores Inc has said its U.S. workers will get a raise to at least $9 an hour, while West Coast port workers have reached a tentative deal for a new contract after a months-long dispute.

The refinery work stoppage began on Feb. 1 when talks for a new three-year contract between the USW and lead oil company negotiator Shell Oil Co broke down.

Talks were resumed but halted again after nearly reaching an agreement on Friday, said sources familiar with the negotiations.

After the latest breakdown between the two sides, Steelworkers leaders targeted Shell, which is the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, calling workers out at a chemical plant and three refineries in the company's Motiva Enterprises [MOTIV.UL] joint-venture with Saudi Aramco [SDABO.UL].

The work stoppage now includes the nation's largest refinery, Motiva's 600,250 barrel per day (bpd) Port Arthur, Texas, refinery.   Continued...

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