January 30, 2019 / 8:59 PM / 7 months ago

Steelworkers reject first offer from Shell in contract talks: sources

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The United Steelworkers (USW) union on Wednesday rejected the first offer from Shell Oil Co in talks for a new national agreement covering 30,000 U.S. refinery, chemical plant and pipeline workers, according to three sources familiar with the negotiations.

FILE PHOTO - A Shell logo is seen on a fuel pump at a gas station In Warsaw, Poland June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The current national agreement for refinery workers expires on Friday. The union and the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which is representing oil companies, have been meeting since Jan. 16 to hammer out a new pact.

The offer was rejected in part because it lacked language requiring the successor to a current owner of a plant to accept the contract with the union in place at the time ownership is assumed, the sources said.

The rejected offer also lacked no-retrogression language prohibiting plant owners from going back on terms agreed to in past contracts.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said the company continues to work toward an agreement with the union for “our workers to continue to grow, develop and enjoy earnings that are among the most competitive in the manufacturing industry.”

A union spokeswoman said talks were continuing.

“The USW will continue to negotiate in good faith for a pattern agreement that is beneficial for our members, their families and their communities, and that allows them to work safely and productively for their employers,” union spokeswoman Lynne Hancock.

The first offer made by the lead company, which since 1997 has been Shell, has always been rejected by Steelworkers negotiators.

The union is seeking a three-year agreement to replace the expiring four-year pact that was agreed to after rolling strikes in 2015 in which more than 7,000 workers at 12 refineries and three chemical plants were off their jobs for at least two months at most sites and six months at a few others.

The union is seeking an 8 percent annual raise for workers who make an average $40 an hour with four years experience. The union is also proposing its members begin replacing as much as 10 percent a year of the non-union workers who perform maintenance work at refineries and chemical plants.

Shell has not disclosed its proposals.

The national agreement between Shell and USW covers pay, benefits, safety and health issues and will be pared with agreements on local issues at each plant to form the contracts for individual sites.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

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