Negotiations continue after USW rejects Marathon’s proposal and oil worker contract expires | Northwest Indiana Business Headlines

The United Steelworkers union rejected the oil industry’s latest proposal for a new contract as the current one expired at midnight Tuesday.

The USW and Marathon Petroleum, which is representing “Big Oil” at the bargaining table in talks to hammer out a new pattern settlement, failed to reach a new agreement by the deadline, but agreed to 24-hour rolling extensions of the current contract to allow negotiations to continue.

The two sides have been negotiating since Jan. 13 to reach a new deal on wages, health care, workplace safety and working conditions for 30,000 USW members who work in the petrochemical sector, including at the BP Whiting Refinery.

“USW members were on the front lines of the pandemic, ensuring that our nation could meet its energy needs while company executives were safely tucked away, working from home,” USW International President Tom Conway said. “Management needs to finally come to the table ready to negotiate a deal that reflects our members’ hard work, commitment and sacrifice.” 

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Marathon’s most recent proposal reportedly included a 9% pay increase over a three-year period.

The USW and Marathon would have to reach an agreement on a template on which local agreements would be based, including a new contract that would cover the majority of the 1,700 workers at the BP Whiting Refinery along the Lake Michigan lakefront in Whiting, Hammond and East Chicago.

“Our members remain strong and united in their commitment to reaching a deal that meets their needs on wages, benefits, health and safety and more,” said Mike Smith, who chairs the USW’s National Oil Bargaining Program. “We call on Marathon to demonstrate the same urgency.”

USW represents about two-thirds of the oil refinery workers in the United States.

The last oil worker contract USW negotiated in 2019 led to an 11% raise for refinery workers over three years. The USW has been negotiating contracts with the oil industry since 1965.

BP Whiting Refinery workers most recently went on a lengthy strike in 2015 over safety and staffing concerns. The union said the contract talks have led over the years to wage increases, job security, safety improvements, fatigue management provisions, health and safety training better life insurance, extra paid holidays and six weeks of vacation for workers with 30 years of experience.

Union members will get to vote on any proposed agreement.

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