March 24, 2015 / 10:44 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. workers set to return next week to Shell Deer Park refinery

HOUSTON, March 24 (Reuters) - Striking workers are scheduled to return to their jobs next week at Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s joint-venture refinery in Deer Park, Texas, said an official of the United Steelworkers union (USW), ending a near two-month walkout.

Workers will begin returning to work on Monday, said Lee Medley, president of the USW local 13-1. The 800 workers walked off their jobs when the largest refinery strike in 35 years began on Feb. 1.

The national strike spread to 15 plants including 12 refineries that accounted for one fifth of U.S. crude oil refining capacity. Only one refinery, Tesoro’s Martinez, California, refinery was shut due to the strike.

Three Motiva Enterprises refineries in Louisiana and Texas co-owned by Shell and Saudi Aramco saw workers returning to their jobs this week. The strike at Motiva’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery began on Feb. 21 with USW members at the Convent and Norco, Louisiana, plants walking off their jobs the following day.

USW members are also returning to work this week at Tesoro Corp’s Anacortes, Washington, and Carson, California, plants, the company said.

Meanwhile, strikers at Tesoro’s Martinez, California, refinery are set to vote on the new contract this week.

But negotiations between the union and management at BP Plc’s Whiting, Indiana, refinery were proceeding slowly, said sources familiar with the talks.

Representatives from the two sides have met for the past two days at BP’s joint-venture refinery with Husky Energy in Toledo, Ohio.

Company negotiators have also met for two days with USW members from LyondellBasell Industries’ Houston refinery . A Lyondel spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday’s negotiations.

Discussions between the USW and Marathon Petroleum Corp. to end strikes at the Catlettsburg, Kentucky and Galveston Bay, Texas, were moving at “a snail’s pace,” said a source familiar with the talks.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Diane Craft

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