U.S. Oil Union Resumes Talks With Shell With Strike in 10th Day

The United Steelworkers union, representing 30,000 oil workers across the U.S., met with Royal Dutch Shell Plc Tuesday in an attempt to negotiate a new labor agreement and end the country’s biggest refinery strike since 1980.

The USW, which has members at more than 200 U.S. refineries, fuel terminals, pipelines and chemical plants, and Shell, bargaining on behalf of oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., resumed talks, Lynne Hancock, a union spokeswoman in Nashville, Tennessee, said by telephone. The strike extended into a 10th day.

The nine U.S. refineries on strike account for about 13 percent of the country’s processing capacity. It’s the first national strike by U.S. oil workers since 1980, when a walkout lasted three months. One of the sites affected has halted production, and a full strike of USW members would threaten to disrupt 64 percent of U.S. fuel output.

Ray Fisher, a spokesman for The Hague, Netherlands-based Shell, said by e-mail Tuesday that the company had “nothing much to report other than negotiations have resumed.”

The USW has been seeking better health and safety measures, and oil companies have failed to alleviate its concerns, USW International President Leo Gerard said in a statement on Saturday.

Plants Affected

The union began the strike at seven refineries after negotiations with Shell fell apart and workers’ contracts expired on Feb. 1. Affected were Tesoro Corp.’s plants in Martinez and Carson, California, and Anacortes, Washington, and Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Catlettsburg complex in Kentucky. In Texas, Shell’s Deer Park complex, Marathon’s Galveston Bay plant and LyondellBasell Industries NV’s Houston facility were targeted.

USW members at BP Plc’s 405,000-barrel-a-day Whiting and 135,000-barrel-day Toledo refineries joined the strike over the weekend.

Tesoro’s Golden refinery near San Francisco had halted all fuel production by Feb. 6. The plant already had about half of its output offline for maintenance before the strike and shut completely after the walkout began.

United Steelworkers members operate refinery units, perform maintenance and work in labs at the plants.

The USW and Shell began negotiations on Jan. 21 amid the biggest collapse in oil since 2008, driven largely by surging output from U.S. shale formations that cut prices by 49 percent in the second half of 2014.

Refiners in the Standard & Poor’s 500 have more than doubled since the beginning of 2012, when the steelworkers last negotiated an agreement. Marathon and Tesoro went on that year to take their place among the 10 best performers in the S&P 500 Index.

The national agreement, which addresses wages, benefits and health and safety, serves as the pattern that companies use to negotiate local contracts. Individual USW units may still decide to strike if the terms they’re offered locally don’t mirror those in the national agreement.

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