Union workers prepared to strike at Baytown refinery

BAYTOWN, Texas - Union workers say they are prepared to strike at Baytown's ExxonMobil refinery due to unresolved safety issues.

The local chapter of the United Steelworkers Union notified the company of its plans to strike in less than 60 days.

A union spokesman said workers are asking for an update on safety measures and an improvement in education efforts. They claim the same measures were implemented at the company's refineries in Beaumont and Louisiana.

The company has about 56 days to respond to union demands, but a worker said the union has already brought in trailers and other equipment in preparation for a strike.

Would a strike have any impact on gas prices? An industry spokesman said it would have to last a very long time for that to happen.

"Initially, nothing will happen because if the union strikes the supervisory personnel will run the plant for a while," said George Littell, a consultant with Groppe, Long, & Littell. "It's important to appreciate that 125 refineries in the United States can make about 9.1 million barrels a day of gasoline."

ExxonMobil sent this statement to Local 2:

"ExxonMobil has made an extensive effort to reach a resolution with the local USW Union regarding their contracts that provides fair consideration to the interests of all the parties involved.   While we have reached agreement in many areas, the union has chosen to give us notice of their intent to strike as a means to resolve outstanding issues.  The earliest that a strike or lockout could occur would be Saturday, June 15, 2013.  We hope that a potential work stoppage would be avoided through continued dialogue and mutual efforts to seek fair resolution.

We have made necessary arrangements that will allow us to continue to safely operate the plant until successor collective bargaining agreements are reached.   We would prefer to reach lasting agreements to allow us to maintain a positive relationship with the union and our workforce.  We remain hopeful that we will reach agreements that will maintain the good working relationships our employees share with us and one another.

Our commitment to safety and our safety culture in Baytown far exceeds the terms of the Process Safety letter.  Our safety culture is built on a foundation of extensive employee involvement and commitment. Represented employees already participate and have leadership roles in safety programs at our facility."

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