Workers at three more U.S. refineries have joined striking employees from nine other refineries across the country.
The 1,350 United Steelworkers Union members are all from refineries and chemical plants operated by Royal Dutch Shell (IW 1000/2). They join 5,200 fellow workers who began walking out February 1st over pay and working conditions. They say the industry isn’t doing enough to keep its more than 30,000 workers safe while on the job.
The contract affects about 265 production facilities and refineries. Oil industry leaders say they share the workers’ concern for safety, but deny they are working in unsafe conditions. One area of contention is non-union employees who perform “routine maintenance” alongside union members. The USW wants them replaced with union workers.
Shell called the decision by the USW to expand the strike disappointing, and in a letter to employees said it was working to resolve matters, but the union isn’t doing its part, “(W)e're seeing little evidence that the USW's leaders are interested in a meaningful settlement any time in the foreseeable future.
NORTH Sea oil workers have been given until March to decide if they want to strike over changes to working conditions http://t.co/Q2A5saPr3M— Colin Armstrong (@EE_Colin) February 23, 2015
The letter went on to detail its offer of a three-year deal with annual pay raises of 2% for the first two years and 2.5% for year three. Talks on the contract broke down Friday and no new talks have been scheduled.
The walkout is now the largest refinery strike to hit the U.S. in 35 years, with 6,600 workers now on picket lines from 15 plants and refineries affecting about 20% of the nation’s total refining capacity.
The USW represents 30,000 workers across the country. Those not striking at this point are working under “rolling 24-hour” contract extensions that will extend one day at a time until a deal is reached, according to Fuel Fix.
So far there’s no word yet on any plans to extend the walkout to those still on the job.