USW Oil Workers Join Global Health and Safety Discussions

Two USW leaders recently joined their fellow oil workers from around the world to draft a list of priorities for improving occupational health and safety for oil and gas workers in the Arctic.

Kim Nibarger, a former refinery worker and safety representative who was recently named the new chair of the USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP), and Fritz Guenther, a health and safety representative for Local 4959 which represents workers on Alaska’s north slope, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, for four days in late January for the meetings, sponsored by the IndustriALL Global Union and the International Labour Organization.

The group, which included union members, representatives of management, and government leaders from the United States and Canada, as well as Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom, worked together to draft a list of policies to improve health and safety for workers in the harsh Arctic climate.

Despite opposition from many management representatives, the labor group fought hard to keep a number of important issues in the final draft, including language on the rights of workers to refuse unsafe work. We also successfully argued to keep behavioral safety language out of the document.

“The USW and our union sisters and brothers from around the world brought a wealth of knowledge to the table on these issues through specific experiences,” Nibarger said. “We should be proud to have been a part of the process in developing a tool to address issues specific to the oil and gas sector in the Arctic.”


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