USW, BP reach tentative deal at Whiting Refinery with 11 percent raise

Hundreds attend a solidarity rally for striking BP Refinery workers in Whiting in 2015. USW Local 7-1 has reached a tentative deal with BP.

The United Steelworkers union reached a tentative deal with BP at the Whiting Refinery last week that reportedly includes a pay boost over three years.

"The local has a tentative agreement on local issues and the company agreed on the settlement agreement for the USW National Oil Bargaining Program," USW spokeswoman Lynne Hancock said.

The tentative deal reached Thursday must be ratified by the more than 1,100 oil workers represented by USW Local 7-1 in Whiting. It follows a pattern agreement USW negotiators reached with lead industry bargainer Shell just hours before the last contract expired Friday.

"We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the USW on the local terms of a new collective bargaining agreement for the Whiting Refinery’s represented employees," BP spokesman Michael Abendoff said. "Both sides came to the table committed to bargaining in good faith, working collaboratively to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure the long-term success of our operations."

Hancock said USW Local 7-1 was aiming for a ratification vote at the union hall Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Union officials have been mum about what the collective bargaining agreement includes, but the international news service Reuters reported workers will get 3.5 percent raises for the first two years and a 4 percent raise in the third year.

"Shell is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the United Steelworkers International Union at the national level," Shell said in a statement. "We believe this agreement respects the needs of our employees, underpins our resolute commitment to safety and ensures the economic health of Shell’s facilities. The tentative agreement is being put before the USW’s membership at our refineries and chemical plants for ratification in the coming days. While some local issues are still being addressed at various sites around the country, national contract issues have been resolved. ... We look forward to the contract being ratified and continuing in our mission to safely provide quality products to our customers."

The USW also sought more health and safety protections for 30,000 oil workers at more than 220 refineries, terminals, and other petrochemical operations nationwide, as well as "no retrogression" clauses to keep the contracts in place if any of the refineries or operations are sold to new owners.

During the last round of negotiations in 2015, oil workers nationwide went on strike over safety concerns, including that oil companies were making excessive use of outside contractors who weren't as familiar with the equipment or workplace conditions. The strike lasted a record 93 days in Whiting, the longest work stoppage since the former Standard Oil Refinery was founded in 1889.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.