North America

U.S. refinery strike spreads to one-fifth of national capacity

The largest U.S. refinery strike in 35 years entered its fourth week as workers at 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of national production capacity were walking picket lines as of 12 a.m. CST on Sunday, according to union officials.

A total of 6,550 members of the United Steelworkers union at 15 plants, including the 12 refineries, are involved in the work stoppage that began on Feb. 1 when talks for a new three-year contract between the USW and lead oil company negotiator Shell Oil Co stopped….

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 joint-venture with Saudi Aramco.

The first work stoppage of the three refineries was at the nation's largest, the 600,250 barrel per day Port Arthur, Texas, refinery,…

Twenty-four hours later, USW members were also picketing at Motiva's 235,000 bpd Convent, Louisiana, and 238,000 bpd Norco, Louisiana, refineries and the Shell chemical plant in Norco….

In a letter Shell has sent to striking employees at its Deer Park, Texas, refinery and chemical plant, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the company said the key sticking point was non-union contractors who perform daily maintenance, which the USW would like to see replaced with union workers….

Workers were already on strike at Shell's 327,000 bpd joint-venture refinery in Deer Park since the strike began on Feb. 1….

Union negotiators have rejected seven contract offers from Shell….

Only one refinery has shut down due to the strike…Tesoro's 166,000-bpd plant in Martinez, California, which was previously scheduled to undergo maintenance….

Refiners are using trained replacement workers, primarily managers and engineers to keep plants running at near normal rates.

(Excerpt)

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