Talks underway in Houston between Shell, Steelworks

Credit: The Advertiser

Talks were set to resume Monday morning in Houston involving Shell, representing the oil industry, and United Steelworkers over a three-year labor contract.

Union spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said the resumption of talks were scheduled for 10 a.m. CST at an undisclosed site. She said she has not heard anything that would indicate they did not begin on time.

The USW is striking at 15 locations in seven states, including three — Motiva refineries in Convent and Norco and a Shell Chemicals site in Norco — in Louisiana. Those sites involve about 800 workers and refinery capacity of 465,000 barrels a day.

The national strike began Feb. 1 at nine locations and has grown to involve about 7,000 workers.

The union has said its primary reason for striking is safety concerns. It says the company is operating with short staffing, and doesn’t replace workers who are vacationing, sick or on temporary assignment elsewhere.

The company contends it needs more flexibility with its workforce.

Hancock said USW texted a message Sunday night that urged striking workers to stay united and told members who are working on rolling, 24-hour contracts to be prepared to join the strike if necessary.

“It’s not guaranteed they will be called out,” Hancock said.

Representing the union at the negotiations in Houston are Gary Beevers, who leads the national oil bargaining program; Tom Conway, international vice president of administration; Kim Nibarger, health and safety specialist; and Jim Lefton, who represents USW District 13.

Shell has not issued a statement about the strike since March 4, when Shell and USW said they would continue talks.

Shell said then on its website: “Shell and USW held discussions today and agreed to resume talks next week. While we continue running our business, we look forward to reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement with the USW.”

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