After more than a month of wrangling, United Steelworkers and Royal Dutch Shell representatives have reached a tentative deal.
The USW oil refinery strike, the first major oil refinery strike in 35 years, started February 1 and the USW members at Shell Deer Park, LyondellBasell and Marathon Texas City were some of the first called to walk out on strike by the national arm of USW. Since then, the union has pulled out more than 6,000 workers at 15 plants across the country, including 12 refineries.
On Thursday afternoon USW spokeswoman Lynn Hancock announced that the two sides -- who have been battling over the terms of a contract for the 30,000 USW oil refinery workers since January 21 -- have agreed to a four-year national contract. The local USW union districts pattern their contracts based on this national contract.
The two sides grappled over safety issues, the fatigue policy and contract workers. All of those issues have been sort of dealt with, according to the USW release:
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"Safety issues were central to the negotiations, and the proposed agreement calls for the immediate review of staffing and workload assessments, with USW safety personnel involved at every facility. Daily maintenance and repair work in the plants was another critical issue that, too, was addressed.
'The new agreement calls for joint review on the local level of future, craft worker staffing- needs,' said USW International Vice President Tom Conway. 'Included are hiring plans to be developed in conjunction with recruitment and training programs.'"
(It's worth noting that the release mentions all the issues without going into any detail about exactly how these things will be addressed.)
The next step in the bargaining process is for the company to put the terms of the settlement agreement on all of the Shell and Motiva bargaining tables so that the local unions can figure out their local terms of settlement. But assuming all of that goes well, the USW workers could be back to work pretty soon.
In the meantime, USW spokeswoman Hancock is already declaring a vague and tentative deal a victory. We're still waiting to hear back from Shell.