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Union To Hold National Rally Against Shell

After striking all week, the United Steelworkers (USW) announced Friday that they will hold a National Day of Action for oil workers.

The USW, unhappy with the latest contract offer from Royal Dutch Shell, announced that they will sponsor a National Day of Action on Saturday against the oil giant. The rally is scheduled to be held at the front gates at 65 refineries along with nearly 200 other facilities across the country, including terminals, pipelines and petrochemical plants.

USW International President Leo W. Gerard declared in a statement, “Corporate greed and management’s stubborn refusal to accept input from our union on issues like training, staffing levels and fatigue from excessive overtime have resulted in a fatality rate for workers in the oil industry that is much higher than the national average.”

“We simply cannot trust management at these companies to prioritize workers’ health and safety ahead of profits,” Gerard added.

USW International Vice President Gary Beevers detailed that the main issues at this point are overtime, staffing levels, working conditions, occurrences of fires, emissions, leaks and explosions, a lack of opportunities for workers in the trade crafts and the number of contract workers.

“Qualified and experienced union workers are replaced by contractors when they leave or retire,” Beevers noted to The Chicago Tribune.

The union members began striking on Sunday at nine refineries and chemical plants. The strikes, which took place in California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington, were prompted by failed negotiations after their previous labor contract expired. The union claims industry negotiators failed to address serious concerns raised by the USW regarding the health and safety of workers. Along with striking, the union has also filed unfair labor practice charges.

The Chicago Tribune reports that USW has asked local unions leaders in the National Oil Bargaining Program to reject the sixth contract offer from Shell which was made late on Wednesday.

“The USW has rejected the 6th offer from Shell,” a union official told Reuters. The union also noted that talks have stopped for now as they wait a pending information request but that it will continue at some point.

The divide between the union and Shell has only gotten worse with the recent drop in oil prices. With the drop in prices, profits have not been as large prompting executives to say they cannot afford to lift wages for workers, Reuters reports.

Top union official have noted that they recognize this industry reality, telling the Chicago Tribune that this could be one of the toughest negotiations in years because of the lower oil prices along with other factors affecting the industry.

Shell could not be reached for further comment.

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