Exclusive: ExxonMobil labor negotiations fail – again – days before lockout

The Exxon Mobil plant in Beaumont operates Tuesday. Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick was somber in his daily updates inn reference to the economic impact locally of the current state of the oil and gas industry. Photo taken Tuesday, April 21, 2020 Kim Brent/The Enterprise

Attempts to reach an agreement before 600 employees at ExxonMobil’s Beaumont refinery could be locked out ended on Thursday without success.

Representatives from the United Steelworkers union presented another offer to the company on Thursday afternoon, according to ExxonMobil, but it was ultimately rejected.

It was the first time the parties discussed a contract proposal since meetings ended unsuccessfully on April 23. At that time, ExxonMobil reiterated to employees its intentions to take over operations from hourly employees.

In another letter to employees published Thursday afternoon, management wrote that USW international’s presentation didn’t match the company’s goals for keeping operations “competitive” as it heads into the future.

“As we told the Union, this offer still includes items that significantly increase costs to the Company and that we have consistently expressed cannot be accepted over the last 108 days of bargaining,” management wrote. “This is extremely disheartening.”

In its update to employees, the company said it would still be open to hearing from the union and ratifying a contract to prevent a work stoppage.

The USW also shared similar hopes — leaving the door open for more negotiations before a 10 a.m. Saturday lockout deadline.

“It is our intent to do everything we can to avoid this proposed lockout and work stoppage,” USW District 13 Staff Representative Richard “Hoot” Landry told the Enterprise in an email.

But, despite communications still being open, both parties confirmed they’ve formed a plan for handing off operations to management after a Monday meeting, and clearing the way for hourly employees to be locked out of the work site.

Reuters reported Tuesday morning that the company already has been advertising for at least 40 operators with a minimum of two years of experience for three months of work, according to its sources.

Neither the company nor the union have detailed specifics about what parts of the USW’s proposal ExxonMobil has taken issue with, but the company said it has and is still focused on good-faith negotiations.

“ExxonMobil has been actively engaged in good-faith negotiations with the United Steelworkers Union for a new contract since January,” a spokesperson with the company wrote in an email to the Enterprise. “Despite extensive efforts, we have not reached an agreement, and the Union committee has not held an employee vote on our offers.”

In previous interviews and statements sent to the Enterprise, Beaumont United SteelWorkers local leadership said their contentions with ExxonMobil’s offer weren’t based on pay but instead centered around policy changes that affected job security, seniority and safety.

The USW’s offer on April 23 was aimed at extending the negotiation process by one year so workers could avoid a work stoppage, union representatives said, but ExxonMobil said a temporary extension wasn’t on the table.

“These negotiations are not about wages,“ USW Local 13-243 Darrell Kyle said in a statement. “Our greatest concern is making sure our lives and our jobs are safe and secure. Safety in our workplaces also protects our families and community.”

The Beaumont complex has only had three strikes in its history —in 1975, 1980 and 1988— according to the company.

Written by Jacob Dick

Categories: Beaumont, Business

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