* USW says Exxon has failed to offer key safety provision
* Talks for a new contract to continue till mid-June
(Adds contract details)
HOUSTON, April 27 Negotiations for a new
contract covering hourly workers at Exxon Mobil Corp's
refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has become a scrap over a
proposal on worker safety, The United Steelworkers union (USW)
said on F rid ay.
Exxon and the USW are negotiating a new three-year contract
during a 75-day extension from the previous three-year pact
covering workers at the 502,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery,
Exxon's second-largest and the third largest in the country.
The USW said Exxon has failed to offer a key safety
provision of the national contract agreed to by oil companies
and the USW in February, and which four of Exxon's refineries
approved at that time.
"All Exxon Mobil management has to do is treat us equally,
is give us the same (national agreement) as they have offered to
Billings, Beaumont, Torrance and Chalmette (refineries)," said
Kenneth Duke, president of the USW local union in Baton Rouge.
"This is all the company has to do to bring us a contract that
we can ratify."
An Exxon spokeswoman said the company was disappointed that
workers did not have an opportunity to vote on its most recent
contract offer at Baton Rouge.
"We are disappointed that the United Steelworkers rejected
our most recent offer, including wage increases that match the
industry pattern," said Exxon spokeswoman Stephanie Cargile.
USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said the Baton Rouge members
did not vote on the contract proposal because it did not match
the national contract.
Specifically, the union said Exxon has not offered to Baton
Rouge workers the national contract proposal with a provision
for a process safety representative that USW and the company
would appoint at the refinery.
"We value employee participation in all of our site safety
programs," Cargile said. "Unfortunately, USW leadership has
withdrawn from our Joint Health and Safety Committee and OSHA's
Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), which has demonstrated
success at other sites."
The process safety representative is intended to focus on
safety and reliability in the refinery production process as
opposed to general safety.
Federal safety investigators have criticized so-called
"slips-trips-and-falls" general safety programs as providing a
false sense of security about safety at oil refineries when
potentially catastrophic problems are developing with refining
"If the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge had been a VPP site, OSHA
would not have included it in its National Emphasis Program,"
Hancock said. "The problem with VPP is that OSHA cannot come in
unannounced to find out what is really happening in the
An OSHA national emphasis program inspection at the Baton
Rouge refinery in 2011 cited the Baton Rouge refinery for 20
Between 2007 and 2011, OSHA undertook a national emphasis
program of inspections of the nation's refineries in the wake of
the 2005 blast at BP Plc's Texas City, Texas, refinery,
which killed 15 workers.
While most U.S. refineries agreed to the national contract
in February, the contracts at several refineries expire after
the national agreement was reached.
The agreement between Exxon and USW at Baton Rouge expired
on March 31, but there is 75-day contract extension in place to
continue talks. The talks will continue until mid-June.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Gunna Dickson)