HOUSTON (Reuters) - Workers at Lyondell Basell Industries protested outside the company’s Houston refinery on Thursday against the suspension of a local union president in a dispute about safety practices, a United Steelworkers (USW) official said.
A Lyondell representative was not immediately available to discuss the protest.
Lance Spurlock, president of USW Local 13-227, which represents 450 workers at the 263,776 barrel-per-day (bpd) Houston refinery, was suspended on Wednesday pending dismissal by Lyondell following the dispute, said Marcos Velez, USW staff representative.
Spurlock told a company supervisor a union member could not be required to operate a crane at the refinery, Velez said.
Following the dispute, a plant supervisor told the company Spurlock used unethical and inappropriate language in disputing the assignment of the worker, who is not trained to operate a crane, Velez said.
“If Lance had said half the stuff they say he said, we wouldn’t be here,” Velez told the 100 workers gathered for the lunchtime protest outside the refinery’s administration building in east Houston.
Velez said Spurlock and a union member present during the dispute with the supervisor both denied that Spurlock used an expletive in talking to the supervisor.
Local 13-227 has been arguing with the company over crane operations at the refinery since 2008, when a 420-foot (128-metre) crane fell over in an accident that killed four people and injured seven others, all of whom were contractors.
Federal investigators found a contractor operating the crane at the time of the accident did not have the training to operate a crane of that size.
Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Peter Cooney