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US refinery union to focus on safety in 2012

09 March 2012

The United Steelworkers (USW) union reached a tentative agreement with refinery owners on a new three-year staff agreement on 31 January, and said it had made safety the focus of this year's contracts after a spate of accidents at various refineries.

The USW represents staff at 69 refineries across the US
The USW represents staff at 69 refineries across the US

Amongst the worst of these was the April 2010 explosion at Tesoro’s refinery in Anacortes, Washington, which killed seven people, but USW says there are serious incidents on an almost daily basis, and it plans to start a log on its website to publicise the extent of the problem.

The deal, signed with lead-negotiator Shell representing US refiners, will serve as the standard for wages, benefits and working conditions for union-represented employees nationwide. Amongst the safety measures reported to have been agreed were discussions on establishing a fatigue standard, adding an additional person to staff-management safety committees and providing additional process safety training for staff. 

The USW represents 30,000 workers at 168 production, refining, marketing, transportation, pipeline and petrochemical facilities across the US, including 69 refineries representing approximately 64 percent of US refining capacity.

“As long as oil refineries carry huge risks of explosions, fires and releases, politicians and our communities are going to try to shut them down.  But if industry begins to take safety seriously we can eliminate the risk of living near a refinery”, the union says in its campaign literature.

The deal must be ratified by each local union at each refinery, with at least two to date, Marathon Petroleum’s Kentucky refinery and Tesoro’s North Dakota refinery, having rejected the preliminary agreement. 


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