United Steelworkers Union Oil Workers Overwhelmingly Approve National Oil Bargaining Policy

Jim Lefton, USW District 13 Sub-Director of Sub-District 1, (cell) 615-545-0847
Lynne Baker, USW communications, (o) 615-831-6782, (cell) 615-828-6169

Beaumont, Texas—Oil workers from the United Steelworkers union (USW) overwhelmingly ratified the 2009 National Oil Bargaining policy and gave strike authorization to the union.

“This strong ratification of the oil policy and strike ratification shows how united and determined the membership is in getting a fair contract,” International Vice President Gary Beevers said. “By adopting the policy, the local unions agree that their contracts will not conflict with it. Any deviation from the policy requires specific approval from the international president, me and the oil bargaining policy committee.”

Beevers heads the union’s National Oil Bargaining program and has the authority to call a strike if it is warranted.

Rank-and-file workers created the policy, which contains the union’s bargaining proposals, at the National Oil Bargaining conference in September. After delegates to the conference approved the policy, there was a 45-day window for local unions to present it to the membership for ratification. Ballots had to be returned to Beevers’s office no later than Oct. 27.

“We created this policy so it would meet the needs of our members, their families and their communities,” said Jim Savage, a National Oil Bargaining Policy committee member. “This policy will also help the oil companies retain quality people and keep their workplaces safe.”

The policy consists of 12 items and is as follows:

• Term of agreement: All agreements shall expire at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2012.

• Wages: Substantial wage increase which includes Cost of Living Adjustment.

• Shift Differential: 5% for afternoon shift and 10% for night shift of highest rate in contract.

• Medical: The company will provide fully paid medical, dental and vision coverage with no reduction in the benefits for the term of the agreement.

• Retiree Medical: The company will provide future retirees with comprehensive medical, dental and vision plans at no cost to the employees.

• Pension: All pension benefits must meet a minimum $85 times years of service.

• Health & Safety: Includes such items as the right to refuse dangerous work and have a safe and healthful workplace; cooperation between labor and management to eliminate accidents and health hazards, including the reporting of unsafe actions and conditions to supervision; access to protective equipment; periodic air sampling and noise testing; medical assistance at work; establishment of joint labor/management health, safety and environment committees; training; accident reporting; creation of union health, safety and environment positions; adequate staffing; mechanical integrity and the elimination of atmospheric vents on process units; and the safe siting of non-essential personnel.

• Occupational Death: Increase the benefits payable to the survivors of a worker whose death resulted from an occupational injury to $2 million.

• Holidays: Two additional paid holidays—Martin Luther King, Jr. and one additional holiday. For those groups that already have the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, they will choose another day.

• Successorship: Renew and expand successorship language to cover partial sales.

• Neutrality: Organizing neutrality language.

• No Retrogression: There shall be no retrogression in previous terms and conditions including, but not limited to, agreements on no layoffs, rate retention, plant closure, health and safety clauses, pension review, and health and safety review. All letters of agreement including, but not limited to, agreements in rate retention, national health insurance, health and safety review, no layoffs and plant closures shall be made part of the current Articles of Agreement between the parties.

Since the policy is now ratified, national and local bargaining will begin during December with the exchange of proposals. The international union will be negotiating with the oil industry to establish a national pattern in wages, benefits and working conditions for all oil contracts. The majority of the oil contracts that the USW represents expire at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2009.

The USW represents 30,000 workers who are in the production, refining, marketing, transportation and pipeline sectors of the oil industry.

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has over 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Aruba. It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector. For more information on oil bargaining and its history, go to www.oilbargaining.org



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