Unions challenge BP’s proposal in local refinery talks

© Reuters. A glowing BP sign is seen at a petrol station in Chester-le-Street, Durham, England, on September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Lee Smith

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. steelworkers union (USW) said on Friday that energy giant BP (NYSE: ) Plc’s proposal would undermine its 56-year-old state program to contract workers at refineries and chemical plants.

USW sources familiar with the matter said BP had proposed in local negotiations at its U.S. refineries for a waiting period of up to 120 days between the expiration of the contract and the possibility of a strike.

“BP’s position at the local table attacked the national oil negotiation plan,” the union said in a message to members, seen by Reuters. “Pipeline and refinery locals stand together and fight back!”

A BP spokesman declined to discuss details of the proposals in contract negotiations.

Company spokesman Cameron Nazminia said: “BP is negotiating in good faith with the United Steelworkers union to increase the competitiveness of our business and create a sustainable future for all.”

A union spokesman could not immediately discuss USW’s information.

Since 1966, unions have won common expiration dates for refinery and chemical plant contracts at many refineries. Common dates increase the likelihood that workers will strike at multiple factories at the same time, as happened during the last nationwide strike in 2015.

“We’re staying the course,” said a union source, who described BP’s proposal as removing the refinery from the common contract expiry date, allowing the company to “influence the contract behind the scenes”.

While there is no change to the official expiration date, the 120-day no-strike period will actually change the date, potentially reducing the USW’s powers for collective action under the common expiration date.

A company that uses no strike or so-called labor peace is Exxon Mobil Nearly nine months ago, the company (NYSE: ) closed 650 workers at its Beaumont, Texas, refinery after a 75-day strike-free period.

“We don’t think Exxon is the best role model,” a union source said.

USW is negotiating a new national agreement for 30,000 U.S. refinery and chemical plant workers with Marathon Petroleum (NYSE: ), the industry’s lead negotiator.

Meanwhile, USW local unions are negotiating site-specific issues with plant managers.

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