January 29, 2009 / 6:16 PM / 11 years ago

Refinery strike looms as contract expiration nears

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Some 30,000 refinery workers that operate half of the U.S. fuel-making capacity could go on strike if they fail to renew a union contract that expires early Sunday, union officials said on Thursday.

Talks between the United Steelworkers union and the lead refiner negotiator, Shell Oil Co (RDSa.L), continued on Thursday, Shell and USW representatives said, though both declined to disclose details of the talks.

The union rejected a third contract offer from Shell, according to a memo from USW International Vice President Gary Beevers posted on a local union website.

“It is the USW’s position that the continued failure of the industry to deal with the issues presented by the (union’s) proposals poses a real threat of strike action,” Beevers wrote.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Walter Bagley

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