Louisiana refineries not affected by strike plans at nine facilities _lowres

Associated Press photo by KIRK SIDES -- Representatives from Deer Park United Steelworkers Local 13-1 picket Sunday outside the Shell Deer Park Refinery in Texas. The strike has not spread to Louisiana, where 3,500 workers are covered by the same contract.

While 3,800 union workers at nine U.S. refineries and petrochemical plants were on strike for a second day Monday, there are no indications so far that the approximately 3,100 Louisiana refinery workers covered by the same contract will be asked to walk off the job.

“The negotiators and our international president are the ones who make the strategic decision as to who goes out,” said Lynne Hancock, spokeswoman for the United Steelworkers. “And I don’t know if they’re going to decide to pull other locations out.”

The four Louisiana refineries covered by the contract are Shell’s chemical plant in Norco; Motiva Enterprises’ refineries in Convent and Norco; and the ExxonMobil refinery in Chalmette.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said the Motiva facilities in Convent and Norco and Shell facility in Norco have agreed to extend the previous agreement while negotiations continue.

None of ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge sites are involved in the National Oil Bargaining negotiations, spokesman Todd Spitler said. Those facilities will be in the next round of negotiations. However, ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge representatives and local union leaders have been meeting and working to resolve local issues, Spitler said.

Chevron’s chemical additives unit in Belle Chasse also is in the next round.

The strike began Sunday after talks broke down between Shell Oil Co., the lead company in the National Oil Bargaining negotiations, and the United Steelworkers.

The strike-affected refineries include two in California as well as five in Texas and one each in Kentucky and Washington.

The steelworkers represent workers at about 65 U.S. refineries.

The steelworkers say the sticking point doesn’t involve wages, but rather health and safety issues and health care.

When the contract was negotiated three years ago, the refiners agreed to talk with the steelworkers about establishing ways to address fatigue, Hancock said. The steelworkers wanted the refiners to follow the American Petroleum Institute’s recommendations.

But the agreement didn’t include any provisions to make sure the refiners followed those guidelines, she said. The steelworkers want the contract to include that language this time around.

While the refiners appear fully staffed on paper, workers are routinely pulled out on temporary assignments, and those assignments may last years, she said. The remaining workers have to work lots of overtime to pick up the slack, and eventually those extra hours lead to tired workers. Tired workers are more likely to make mistakes, and those mistakes could lead to catastrophe, she said.

Meanwhile, the strike continues at seven refineries and two petrochemical and cogeneration facilities. Concerns that production may be affected by the strike increased the prices of refined products Monday, according to Genscape, a data analysis and energy industry monitoring firm.

Jake Eubank, manager of refining and processing for Genscape, said the three Texas refineries where strikes are taking place can process a little over 1 million barrels per day, or about 11 percent of the Gulf Coast capacity.

Editor’s Note: This story was changed on Feb. 4, 2015, to say that Chevron’s chemical additives unit in Belle Chasse will be in the next round of contract negotiations and that the number of workers in Louisiana covered in the current round is about 3,100.