Sept. 21–Representatives of the United Steelworkers Union are gathering next week in San Diego to set national priorities for the upcoming oil bargaining talks that will set the wages and benefits at U.S. oil refineries and chemical plants.
The current contract expires Feb. 1 and covers 30,000 workers in oil refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and oil terminals nationwide, including about 5,000 in the Houston area. Union-represented workers process about two-thirds of the nation’s crude oil.
Four years ago, the Steelworkers went on a six-week strike at 15 oil refineries and chemical plants over excessive overtime and the contracting out of maintenance work. The union and Shell Oil Co., which was bargaining on behalf of the industry, eventually reached a deal that called for meeting periodically on employee fatigue issues and finding ways to develop more union-represented maintenance workers.
The new contract included raises of 2.5 percent the first year, 3 percent in each of the following two years and 3.5 percent in the final year. At the time the contract was ratified the average wage for a Steelworkers member in the plants was $33.65 an hour, or about $70,000 a year.
The oil bargaining policy developed in San Diego will be sent to union halls nationwide for ratification.
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