Exxon, USW union meet on Tuesday to discuss Texas refinery lockout

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Negotiators for the United Steelworkers union (USW) and Exxon Mobil Corp met on Tuesday for the first time since a vote by Beaumont, Texas, refinery workers to reject a company contract offer, the union said in a statement.

Exxon made no new contract offer on Tuesday, according to the statement issued by USW Local 13-243, which represents about 585 hourly workers locked out of the plant since May 1.

Exxon did not have an immediate comment on the meeting, company spokesperson Julie King said.

Bryan Gross, a USW International representative, declined to provide details of what the union proposed at the meeting. The two sides did not discuss any plans to meet again, he said.

“We made the new offer to the company which we hope they will evaluate and work with us to end the unfair labor practice lockout and reach a fair contract for everyone,” the USW statement said.

A majority of the 400 locked-out workers who cast ballots on Oct. 19 voted to reject the contract offer, which would eliminate job seniority for workers at the 369,000-barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery and adjoining lubricant oil blending and packaging plant.

Exxon has said it would leave its last offer on the table until next Monday and if not approved by then, would remove some provisions. It has said eliminating job seniority and other proposed changes are essential to make the company competitive in periods of low margins.

The USW has said the loss of job seniority would reduce employees’ say over job assignments and possibly remove the most experienced workers from operating refinery units.

All 585 people represented by USW 13-243 are scheduled to vote between Nov. 12 and Dec. 22 on removing the union from the refinery.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Franklin Paul and Peter Cooney)

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