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USW rejects contract offer in oil bargaining

United Steelworkers picket outside the BP Whiting Refinery in 2015. The union just rejected a contract offer from Shell, the industry lead in the national oil bargaining.

The United Steelworkers union rejected a Shell Oil Co. proposal Thursday in national oil bargaining for a pattern agreement that would affect workers at the BP Whiting Refinery.

"The company passed an unacceptable proposal at the National Oil Bargaining table earlier today," the USW said in an update to members Thursday. "USW has rejected it. Negotiations continue. Stay united."

The current three-year contract that covers oil workers nationwide, including at the BP Whiting Refinery on the Lake Michigan shore in Whiting, expires Friday.

Shell Oil is the lead company in the contract negotiations. A deal between the company and USW would be used in pattern bargaining by BP and other energy companies will follow. 

"Shell has been dragging their feet on important National Oil Bargaining policy issues over the last few days," the USW said in its update to members. "Shell needs to start getting serious about economics and our other issues."

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The USW is pursuing many workplace safety goals during this round of contract talks, including adding more health and safety representatives, ensuring the union gets input on job training and curriculum development at all workplaces, developing site-specific fatigue risk management systems, and codifying greater protections for pipeline workers.

The union also is seeking a "no retrogression" clause that would maintain the existing contract if any companies or refineries were to change ownership. 

Oil workers in Whiting went on strike for a record 93 days during the last round of contract talks in 2015 over safety issues, such as a heavy use of outside contractors. It was the longest strike in the history of the former Standard Oil refinery, which opened in 1889.

The USW represents more than 30,000 oil workers nationwide at more than 220 refineries, terminals, and other petrochemical operations across the country, so the new contract will have a wide-reaching national impact.

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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.