End of Marathon Galveston Bay strike uncertain ahead of vote

Reuters News
Posted: May 17, 2015 8:35 PM

LAMARQUE, Texas (Reuters) - Acceptance of a new contract proposal to end a three-and-a-half- month strike by workers at Marathon Petroleum Corp's Galveston Bay, Texas, Refinery was uncertain on Sunday, one day ahead of a vote on the offered pact, workers said.

Several workers leaving a briefing that United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 13-1 conducted on Sunday in the LaMarque, Texas, High School auditorium said they would vote against it.

"It sucks," said one worker, who declined to provide his name. "We've been out too long to let them win."

The new contract proposal was developed by a federal mediator working with Marathon and Local 13-1 to end the work stoppage, which began on Feb. 1.

The 1,100 striking workers are scheduled to vote by secret ballot on Monday at their union hall in Texas City, Texas. About 600 members attended the Sunday briefing, union officials said.

A Marathon spokesman declined on Sunday to discuss the upcoming vote.

The refinery has continued to operate with temporary replacement workers since the strike began.

The work stoppage by workers against the Galveston Bay Refinery has become especially bitter as the union has said the company has continued to make proposals that would eliminate job security as well as roll back safety policies put in place following an explosion that killed 15 workers in 2005, when the plant was owned by BP Plc.

The strike at the Galveston Bay refinery began as part of the largest walkout by U.S. refinery and chemical plant workers in 35 years. The work stoppage spread to 15 plants, including 12 refineries that account for one-fifth of U.S. capacity.

Since an agreement on national issues including pay and benefits, was reached between the USW and U.S. refinery owners on March 12, strikes at 13 plants have ended after resolving outstanding local issues.

A USW Local 13-1 official said those attending the briefing on Sunday seemed disappointed by the proposal.

"I think most of those in the meeting thought it was a poor offer," said Larry Burchfield, vice president of Local 13-1, after the briefing, which was closed to the media.

The new proposal is based on an offer the company made in April that was rejected by Local 13-1.

Workers leaving the meeting said the proposal could cost 100 employees their jobs in coming years and further eliminates safety policies.

In addition to the Marathon Galveston Bay strike, workers are continuing a work stoppage at the Toledo, Ohio refinery co-owned by BP and Husky Energy.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Eric Walsh)