HOUSTON (Reuters) - Striking Houston refinery workers on Tuesday rejected Lyondell Basell Industries' final contract offer to settle a two-and-a-half month work stoppage, said an official of the United Steelworkers union (USW), which represents the hourly employees.
In response, company officials told the USW that Lyondell would declare an impasse in the negotiations and impose their last offer beginning on April 20, Jim Lefton, union international representative, said.
More than 400 hourly workers have been on strike at the Lyondell refinery since Feb. 1.
Lefton said the union did not believe an impasse existed in the talks.
"We have more movement to make in the negotiations and our last offer made movement," he said. "We are ready to meet them any time and any place to continue negotiations."
In a letter posted to the company's website, Lyondell Executive Vice President Kevin Brown encouraged striking workers to cross picket lines and come to work under the terms of the company's final offer.
"Many of your coworkers have already returned to work and will benefit from these improved terms," Brown wrote. "We welcome you to join them. With full appreciation and respect for your legal right to strike and remain off work, we believe that doing so is not in your best economic interest."
Brown said the final offer incorporates the terms of the national agreement USW officials reached on March 12 with U.S. refinery owners.
Lefton said officials of USW Local 13-227, which represents striking Lyondell workers, would meet with legal advisers on Wednesday to determine their next steps.
Workers voted Monday and Tuesday on Lyondell's offer. The results were released on Tuesday night.
Premium overtime pay has been the main sticking point in talks during the past few weeks. For decades, workers at Lyondell refinery have able to qualify for multiple differentials boosting their pay when working extensive overtime, union officials have said. The company wants to limit the differentials.
Lyondell workers first walked off their jobs as part of the largest U.S. refinery strike in 35 years. Workers at 10 plants have returned to work under the March 12 agreement combined with local agreements; walkouts are continuing at four refineries, including Lyondell, and a power and steam plant over local issues.
Lyondell has continued to operate the 263,776 barrel per day Houston refinery with temporary replacement workers.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)