Refinery workers, Shell reach tentative agreement

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

The United Steelworkers union has reached an agreement with Shell that could soon lead to the end of a six-week strike that has affected 12 U.S. refineries.

The union and Royal Dutch Shell have been negotiating a contract that would serve as a blueprint for agreements with other refiners.

The union said Thursday the tentative agreement provides yearly wage increases and keeps the current level of health care cost-sharing. The agreement also provides for a review of staffing and workloads at refineries.

The union had accused refiners of creating unsafe conditions by relying heavily on overtime work and using a growing number of contract workers, who the union says aren't as well-trained as its members.

Union workers are expected to return to work as their local chapters reach agreements with refineries.

A ratified agreement would end the first nationwide refinery strike in more than 30 years.

The strike began Feb. 1 with 3,800 employees at nine refineries, mostly in Texas and California, and later spread to other plants. Companies continued to operate most of the refineries with management and contract employees, although a Tesoro Corp. shut down a plant in Martinez, California, that had been partially idled for maintenance.