United States oil workers fight for their rights

This video from the USA says about itself:

Mass Walkout: Workers On Strike at 9 Oil Refineries Producing 10 Percent of US Fuel

2 February 2015

Workers at nine US oil refineries and chemical plants across four states, producing some 10 percent of the country’s fuel, went on strike after their union announced that negotiations on their salaries and safety concerns failed.

The mass walkout of refinery workers – the first since 1980 – took place on Sunday, after the United Steelworkers union (USW) rejected the fifth offer by the industry’s main negotiator, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which in turn halted talks.

By Jerry White in the USA:

Oil giants take hard line against US workers on strike

3 February 2015

Nearly 4,000 workers are on strike at oil refineries in Kentucky, Texas, California and the state of Washington after negotiations between the United Steelworkers (USW) union and major oil corporations for a new three-year labor agreement broke down over the weekend.

On Sunday morning, union officials called a limited strike—involving nine out of the 65 oil refineries it organizes and only 3,800 out of the 30,000 workers covered by the national agreement. The action was called after Royal Dutch Shell, the lead bargainer for the oil companies, walked out of talks without giving the USW anything it could present as a concession to help overcome rank-and-file opposition to another sellout deal.

Despite the sharp slide in crude oil prices, the energy conglomerates, which also include ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Marathon, are taking in windfall profits and are paying their top executives multimillion-dollar bonuses. The value of the oil company shares have more than doubled since the last contract signed by the USW in 2012.

Like workers throughout the United States, oil workers are determined to regain lost pay after more than a decade of stagnant wages and rising health care and other living expenses. In addition, many oil workers are subjected to 12-hour shifts and are forced to work as many as 14 straight days, according to the USW, resulting in fatigue and the danger of fatal accidents.

The politically connected oil industry faces little, if any, oversight—whether Democrats or Republicans are in office—from federal and state regulators despite a raft of deadly explosions, chemical releases and other environmental disasters.

Two of the refineries selected for picketing were the locations of deadly disasters over the last decade. This includes the Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas City, Texas (formerly owned by BP), where 15 workers were killed and 170 injured in a March 23, 2005 hydrocarbon vapor cloud explosion. Investigations found BP responsible for unsafe conditions due to corporate cost cutting, a failure to invest in the plant infrastructure and a lack of oversight on safety and major accident prevention. BP sold the facility to Marathon for $2.5 billion as part of a divestment plan following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

This video from the Chemical Safety Board in the USA says about itself:

28 October 2014

A safety video about the fatal April 2, 2010, explosion and fire at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington. The accident occurred during startup of the refinery’s “naphtha hydrotreater unit” after a maintenance shut down. A nearly 40-year-old heat exchanger violently ruptured, causing an explosion and fire that fatally injured seven workers – the largest loss of life at a U.S. refinery since 2005.

The Jerry White article continues:

The other facility is the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery in the state of Washington where seven workers were killed in an explosion on April 2, 2010. State regulators cited the company for 39 “willful” and five “serious” violations of health and safety regulations. An investigation by the US Chemical Safety Board concluded that Tesoro had a “complacent” attitude towards flammable leaks and occasional fires; did not correct a history of recurring leaks and placed workers in dangerous conditions; and did not adequately maintain equipment before the lethal blast. It also found that the accident was rooted in “a deficient refinery safety culture, weak industry standards for safeguarding equipment, and a regulatory system that too often emphasizes activities rather than outcomes.”

Last August, the Obama administration’s Justice Department shut down its four-year investigation into violations of occupational safety and environmental laws, claiming that the evidence it found “does not reach the exacting bar for criminal prosecution.”

After appeals by Tesoro’s attorneys, a judge in the state of Washington threw out 27 of the 39 “willful” violations and reduced the company’s fine from $2.39 million to $685,000. Judge Mark Jaffe could knock that down even further in a ruling expected this year.

In comments to the local media web site, click2houston.com, Josey Wales, a supporter of the oil workers, replied to comments criticizing the strikers. “[This] is about what the company wants to take away. It’s about the safety in the plants. Maybe you have not been paying attention to the explosions, fires, environmental incidents and the exposure these guys are constantly facing… These corporations don’t care if you’re exposed to cancer-causing chemicals on a constant basis on your job. But do you care if your family is? Are you ignorant enough to believe these chemicals stop at the gate around these plants? That they don’t show up in your water your family is drinking?

“My dad and grandfather both worked in the plants. They worked shift work, nights, evenings, days. They worked holidays and weekends. By the time they were 60 years old they were worn out old men. They buried friends that burned to death in fires and explosions. They buried friends that died from cancer… These plants are making record profits and the CEOs are taking home 40 million-plus a year plus stock bonuses. If you think cheap oil is going to hurt them you are ignorant to how it works. Oil companies buy oil to refine and then sell the byproducts from it. It’s the drilling companies that are laying off. The oil companies are going to make a killing with cheap oil.”

See also here. And here.

The strike by 3,800 oil industry workers has entered its fourth day after talks between the United Steelworkers and industry negotiators failed to make any progress Monday or Tuesday on a new three-year agreement covering 30,000 workers: here.

The United Steelworkers (USW) on Thursday rejected the latest proposal from Royal Dutch Shell for a new three-year labor contract covering 30,000 US workers in the oil industry. The rejection comes as the refinery workers’ strike enters its sixth day, with the union continuing to limit the walkout to 3,800 workers at nine out of country’s 65 refineries organized by the USW: here.

Britain: Unions vowed yesterday to hit back at a “fundamentally unsafe” assault on oil workers’ shift patterns as BP announced it would cut investment by up to a fifth next year. Wood Group chief executive Dave Stewart used Monday’s emergency oil summit in Aberdeen to reiterate bosses’ calls for workers to accept a change from current working patterns. Workers who are currently given three weeks off for every two weeks worked on-platform have been told patterns will change to three weeks on, three weeks off. This means employees, including those working night-shifts, would potentially have to work 21 consecutive days on the dicey rigs: here.

SOUTH African trade union Solidarity warned on Friday that it had received no indication that BP subsidiaries would seek to annul wage agreements. The oil giant announced last week that it would freeze wages for 83,000 employees world-wide this year because of a 50 per cent slump in oil prices. But Solidarity senior organiser Gerhard Cloete said the union had not received any formal notice of companies seeking exemption from the current wage agreement: here.

4 thoughts on “United States oil workers fight for their rights

  1. Pingback: United States oil workers’ strike for safety extended | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: United States striking oil workers in London, England | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Texas oil workers on strike for safety | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: United States oil worker interviewed on safety | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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