Days after Beaumont union members decided not to accept ExxonMobil’s contract offer, the two parties are heading back to the negotiation table.
There is an added level of urgency for the over 620 workers impacted by the lockout that started in May, as the company has promised to remove some benefits from its offer after Nov. 1.
The company and leadership from the United Steelworkers Union confirmed that negotiators would be meeting again Tuesday morning to discuss what comes next, but their messaging shows both believe there likely still is still a long road ahead.
On Friday afternoon, USW leadership released a statement condemning the company for seemingly dragging their feet after the vote on Tuesday and shifting focus to an employee-led effort to end union representation at the Beaumont complex.
“It is time to get back to the bargaining table, negotiate a contract that is fair and equitable for both parties, end the Unfair Labor Practice Lockout and show your employees that you do in fact care about them and want them back on their jobs,” representatives for the union wrote in the statement.
The union’s bargaining committee and the company’s representatives were in arbitration meetings throughout the week but were able to confirm negotiations on Friday morning.
While workers probably would like to avoid the Nov. 1 deadline and potentially losing bonuses, pay raises for 2021 and the right to arbitration, the company has said its amended offer still will be on the table.
In fact, representatives told the Enterprise on Friday that the company didn’t plan on budging from its amended offer in the near future, which could mean bad news for a quick resolution based on the union’s position.
For at least two weeks leading up to the vote, the USW urged members to vote against the offer, making the case that it still jeopardizes key issues of seniority and safety that the union has been fighting against since negotiations started in January.
USW representatives have said provisions in the contract essentially would end the union’s seniority system as it works today, and eliminate several positions in the refinery that it felt was necessary for safety.
For the company’s part, representatives blamed the vote against its proposal on negative messaging from the union and restated that turning down the contract meant workers were no closer to returning to their jobs.
It also appeared to be doubtful of compromise ahead, instead focusing on the decertification election and reminding workers the lockout would end if they decided to dissolve union representation.
“The good news is that soon you will have the opportunity to vote again – in a decertification election,” ExxonMobil representatives wrote in a Friday evening bulletin to employees. “This time, your vote will determine whether you want to put an end to Union irresponsibility, pressure on your loved ones, and unnecessary risks, such as strikes and lockouts.”
After months of organizing, an official petition to decertify the local United Steelworkers Union at ExxonMobil Beaumont was filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Oct. 6.
Before an official vote is called, the NLRB has to verify each signature to make sure the 30% threshold of represented employees is actually met, but there is no guarantee that will be a quick process.
During the contract negotiation at ExxonMobil’s Baytown facility last year, a similar decertification campaign and vote was triggered, which took almost five months from the time the petition was filed to when the vote was held.
Written by Jacob Dick