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Latest News - March 2015

March 3, 2015
Shell Unveils Plan to Replace Union Labor Days before Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Two days before contract talks were scheduled to resume between Royal Dutch Shell Plc and the United Steelworkers’ oil union, the company announced plans to run its second-largest U.S. refinery without union labor.

Shell will have trained and deployed enough “relief workers” by mid-summer to keep the 327,000-barrel-a-day Deer Park refinery in Texas fully staffed, The Hague, Netherlands-based company said late Monday on its website. Lee Medley, president of the USW local covering workers that went on strike at Deer Park Feb. 1, described Shell’s statement on Tuesday as a “scare tactic” designed to get USW members to return to work.

The announcement comes amid national strike action that’s widened to 12 refineries accounting for almost 20 percent of the capacity in the U.S.. Shell is leading the negotiations with the 30,000-strong United Steelworkers on behalf of companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.

Shell said on its website late Monday that the company had been preparing staff to replace union workers since the walkout began. After putting in place non-union Shell employees to run operations at the plant, “we turned our focus to bringing in and training additional staff,” the company said.

Shell isn’t legally allowed to permanently replace workers during the strike because they walked out on unfair labor practices, grounds that protect them from losing their jobs, Medley said.

“They could bring in temp workers, but they can’t permanently replace workers,” Medley said. “They just didn’t get the numbers they wanted coming back, so they’re trying to scare them into it.”

Limiting Contractors

The United Steelworkers, which has been trying to limit the number of contractors at plants, said in a text message on Friday that Shell will need to bargain a fair and safe contract or see the strike expand.

Ray Fisher, a spokesman for Shell, said in a statement on Tuesday that the company and the union will meet on Wednesday “to continue discussions on reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement.”

The walkout of U.S. oil workers is the first national action since 1980, when a stoppage lasted three months. In all, the USW represents workers at sites that together account for 64 percent of U.S. fuel output.

The USW last expanded the strike on Feb. 20 to include Motiva Enterprises LLC’s Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, the nation’s largest, along with its plants in Convent and Norco, Louisiana. Motiva is a joint venture between Shell and Saudi Arabian Oil Co.

On Strike

Workers were already on strike at: Shell’s Deer Park complex in Texas; Tesoro Corp.’s plants in Martinez and Carson, California, and Anacortes, Washington; Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Catlettsburg complex in Kentucky and Galveston Bay site in Texas; LyondellBasell Industries NV’s Houston plant; and BP Plc’s Whiting, Indiana, and Toledo, Ohio, refineries.

The union, which has rejected seven contract offers from Shell, says USW members should handle daily maintenance at plants. Shell has said the union’s demands would take away hiring flexibility.

About 6,550 people have joined the strike, which also includes a Marathon cogeneration plant in Texas and two Shell chemical plants in Texas and Louisiana, USW statements show.



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