By BEN LEFEBVRE
Union workers at ExxonMobil's refinery in Baytown, Texas, are threatening to strike over safety concerns, the United Steelworkers said Monday.
About 850 union employees could halt work on June 15 at the 584,000-bpd refinery -- the second-largest in the US -- unless Exxon management agrees to contract language that the union says would improve health and safety at the sprawling fuels and chemical plant.
The USW has raised concerns about safety at the plant since June 2011, after a worker suffered burns on 25% of his body because of a problem with a steam vent valve.
The union said it proposed health and safety language from the 2012 National Oil Bargaining agreement but Exxon management refused to accept it in its final offer given April 15. The two sides will meet again on May 3, with a strike and management lockout planned if no agreement is reached, the union said in a statement.
"We're confident that an agreement can be reached with ExxonMobil and a strike averted," said Richard Landry, a spokesman for the USW local at Baytown.
An Exxon spokesperson was not immediately available.
The union said the safety language it is seeking is already in place at Exxon's refineries in Torrance, Calif.; Billings, Mont.; Chalmette, La.; and Beaumont, Texas.
Exxon has experienced a number of safety problems with its operations recently, including a major oil spill from a segment of its Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas and an April 17 fire at its 344,000-bpd Beaumont complex that injured 12 contract workers, three of them critically burned.
Dow Jones Newswires