Union says refinery workers strike more likely

Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:16pm EST
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By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The United Steelworkers union warned on Saturday that a strike by U.S. refinery workers as early as 12 a.m. Wednesday was becoming more likely due to "the lack of a more substantive response from the industry."

Union and oil company negotiators have been meeting since January 17 to hammer out a new three-year agreement for workers at nearly two-thirds of U.S. refining capacity.

Union negotiators have not sent out a similar warning to refinery workers in the past three rounds of contract talks with the industry.

Shell Oil Co, which is the lead oil company negotiator, said on Saturday it would work toward an agreement.

"We continue to negotiate with the goal of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement with USW," said Shell spokeswoman Kayla Macke.

Previously, Shell had said it was optimistic a deal could be reached.

In the statement issued Saturday night, the USW's bargaining committee said that without further progress in the talks a strike could take place at "one or more locations when the collective bargaining agreements expire."

Talks between the two sides were scheduled to continue through the weekend.   Continued...