By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Negotiators for the United Steelworkers union (USW) and Exxon Mobil Corp will meet on Thursday for the first time since a May 1 lockout of Beaumont, Texas, refinery workers.
A contract covering 650 union workers expired earlier this year and Exxon locked out workers, citing its fear of a sudden walkout. The 2,700-acre complex, Exxon’s third-largest U.S. refinery, continues to operate with managers and replacement workers producing gasoline and Mobil 1 motor oil.
“We will be trying to resolve the open issues,” USW Staff Representative Hoot Landry told Reuters on Wednesday. The union has proposed a six-year contract covering the refinery and lubricants plant and would continue existing seniority protections.
“We continue to engage in good-faith negotiations with the union until a contract is ratified,” Exxon spokeswoman Julie King said.
The two sides have communicated on proposal terms but have not formally negotiated, according to people familiar with the matter. Landry and another staff representative met with Exxon officials on May 12 to clarify terms of each other’s proposals.
The company has insisted USW Local 13-243 call a vote on its proposal that would create separate contracts for refinery and lubricant plant workers, and give the company control over which employees move up to senior posts.
Exxon’s proposal would give the 369,024 barrel-per-day refinery flexibility to be profitable in even low-margin environments, the company has said.
The USW’s last proposal, made on April 30, sought a six-year contract with no pay raise in the first year. It would match pay raises in the second through sixth years to those set by national labor negotiations that have yet to be held.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)