Steelworkers’ Oil Refinery Members Voting on Bargaining Agenda

PITTSBURGH (PAI)–Contracting out, rising health care costs, erosion of bargaining units, staffing, fatigue and wages are among the major issues in bargaining proposals for the nation’s oil refinery workers.


The 160,000 workers, represented by the Steelworkers, started voting after October 31 on a bargaining agenda covering those items and more, USW oil sector President Gary Beevers said.


Some 300 delegates, meeting for four days just before Halloween at USW headquarters in Pittsburgh, hashed out the proposals, covering national bargaining with Shell, one of the nation’s top “Seven Sisters” oil companies, for a pattern contract.  The oil industry’s current pattern contract, negotiated in 2012, expires at 11:59 p.m. on January 31.


And to emphasize that they mean business, the delegates also voted to set up a second separate oil sector strike fund, in addition to USW’s strike fund.  The union established a separate fund informally in prior years, but this year the delegates voted to make it formal.


It would especially help locals who, in their separate bargaining, can’t reach agreement with  their oil company employers on local issues, even if the two sides reach a pattern pact.


Voters in 75 percent of USW oil sector locals must approve the bargaining proposals to let negotiations start, the union said.  And approval of the proposals also automatically would let Beevers call a strike, if necessary. The voting deadline is December 15.


The delegates, from 10 councils representing their colleagues at various oil firms, approved the contract proposals unanimously, as did the convention’s governing, rank-and-file, Oil Bargaining Policy Committee.  Details of the proposals are kept under wraps until locals have had a chance to vote on them.


The union will also have more-coordinated area-by-area mobilization between headquarters, strategic campaign staffers and locals.


“We plan to build upon the success we had during the last round of oil bargaining,” Beevers said after the oil bargaining conference ended.  “During the last three years our locals experienced some problems implementing provisions of the last national pattern agreement with the oil industry.  Our members developed proposals to help solve those problems and create safer workplaces and communities.”  Beevers will lead the union’s National Oil Bargaining team.


“We are confident we can make some real gains during this round of national oil bargaining,” added Steelworkers International Vice President Tom Conway. “The oil industry continues to earn billions of dollars in profits and can well-afford these proposals.”


“I look forward to negotiating a contract that is fair to our oil workers and the industry, but if talks don’t go well, our members are mobilized and ready,” Beevers concluded.