chemical tower manufacturing installation

HOUSTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. refinery strike widened on its 20th day, with employees on the nation’s largest refinery walking off jobs and becoming a member of picket lines on Saturday because the United Steelworkers union (USW) pushes for a brand new contract that improves wages and safety.

Strikes are underway or have been called at 15 plants, together with 12 refineries with a fifth of U.S. crude processing capability. The stoppages, which have forced corporations to rely on skilled temporary employees to maintain plants operating near normal, are the largest in the refining sector since 1980.

Shortly after talks between union and oil firm representatives ended on Friday evening, the union notified Motiva Enterprises of a strike by its members at the corporate’s 600,250 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

USW members are additionally scheduled to go on strike by 12 a.m. Sunday at Motiva’s 235,000 bpd Convent, Louisiana and 238,000 bpd Norco, Louisiana refineries and the Shell Oil Co chemical plant in Norco, the union said.

“The industry’s refusal to meaningfully handle safety points by way of good religion bargaining gave us no different option however to increase our work stoppage,” USW International President Leo Gerard said in a statement.

As of Saturday, no new talks had been scheduled between the two sides.

Motiva was targeted for the strikes because it’s a 50-50 joint enterprise of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Saudi Aramco . Shell’s U.S. arm Shell Oil Co is the lead oil company negotiator in talks with the USW for a national agreement on security, pay and benefits.

Shell and the USW had been near an agreement for a brand new contract on Friday night time, but different oil firms have been unwilling to just accept the bargain, said sources accustomed to the talks.

“As the lead firm, Shell has the role to get the oil firms to return alongside,” mentioned one of the sources. “The (union) management group decided Shell needed to be put on the list of focused corporations.”

A Shell spokesman stated the corporate was disappointed by the Port Arthur walkout and strike notices to the Louisiana plants.

In a letter Shell has despatched to putting employees at its Deer Park, Texas, refinery and chemical plant, a duplicate of which was seen by Reuters, the company said the key sticking level was non-union contractors who perform daily upkeep, which the USW wish to see changed with union workers.

The corporate mentioned it needed flexibility.

“Hiring flexibility is a confirmed approach to protect our core Shell workforce and the lengthy-term financial viability of our workforce,” the letter stated. “This strategy has served us all properly, as we have not needed to conduct any layoffs in many years.”

The strike that started Feb. 1 was final expanded Feb. 6, when staff at BP Plc-operated refineries in Indiana and Ohio had been advised to begin a work stoppage the following day.

Workers have been already on strike at Shell’s 327,000 bpd joint-enterprise refinery in Deer Park because the strike began on Feb. 1.

MOTIVA Issues

The Motiva walkout could complicate operations on the Port Arthur refinery, which has a number of units shut but did return its second largest crude distillation unit (CDU) to full manufacturing on Friday evening.

The 195,000 bpd CDU is one in all three on the refinery that do the preliminary refining of crude oil coming into the plant and supply feedstock for all other manufacturing units.

The refinery’s largest CDU, which has a rated capability of 325,000 bpd is operating at about 200,000 bpd, the sources said, because a 60,000 bpd hydrocracking unit is shut attributable to a malfunction. The hydrocracker produces motor gasoline, primarily diesel, which has develop into a lucrative export for U.S. refiners.

Motiva also shut a ninety two,000 bpd gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit at the refinery in early January for an overhaul. It is scheduled to restart in the first half of March.

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