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Indiana Oil Worker Strike: A Deal Possible Today?

PHOTO: Negotiations are expected to resume Tuesday between oil companies and the union representing striking Workers. About 1,000 workers at the BP Whiting facility have joined thousands of colleagues across the country in calling for safety improvements. Photo courtesy of United Steelworkers.
PHOTO: Negotiations are expected to resume Tuesday between oil companies and the union representing striking Workers. About 1,000 workers at the BP Whiting facility have joined thousands of colleagues across the country in calling for safety improvements. Photo courtesy of United Steelworkers.
February 10, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS - It's back to the bargaining table.

The union representing striking Indiana BP oil workers will resume talks with oil industry negotiators Tuesday in the largest national oil strike in 30 years.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 employees at BP's Whiting refinery joined others at facilities around the country who walked off their jobs last week. Lynne Hancock with United Steelworkers says they want an end to what they claim are unfair practices, bad-faith bargaining, and threats to striking workers.

"It's also about health and safety, fatigue, inadequate staffing levels, contracting out, and extreme out-of-pocket healthcare expenses," says Hancock.

The move by Indiana workers came after union leaders rejected a sixth contract offer from Shell, the leading negotiator for the oil companies. A BP spokesperson has said the company "is committed to reaching an agreement that provides good wages while giving management the flexibility it needs to enhance safety, improve efficiency and remain competitive."

Hancock says there are serious implications when oil facilities operate with what the union sees as inadequate staffing.

"Our workers are working incredible amounts of overtime; in some cases it's mandatory," she says. "When this happens, people get very tired and when they get tired, they tend to make mistakes. In a refinery, that can be deadly."

Besides the workers, Hancock says refineries need to operate safely to protect those who live near oil facilities. She adds the steelworkers believe the contract language needs to clearly hold companies accountable.

"If we're successful, then we'll see some real positive changes in process safety at these facilities," she says. "And we'll probably see fewer leaks and explosions, or emissions and other kinds of events which negatively impact the community."

BP is using replacement workers for the nearly 60 percent of workers on strike at the Whiting facility.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN