Texas refinery workers approve 6-year contract

Deal 2 years longer than national agreement

HOUSTON (Reuters) — Union workers at Exxon Mobil Corp's Beaumont, Texas, refinery agreed to an unusually long six-year contract on Thursday night, which sources say the company pushed to assure no work stoppages during a contemplated multibillion-dollar expansion.

Members of United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 13-243 voted by secret ballot on the contract offer, which is two years longer than the national agreement reached by the USW and U.S. refinery owners in March.

The 800 Exxon employees represented by Local 13-243 have been working on a rolling 24-hour extension of the contract that expired on Jan. 31.

In addition to a one-time bonus and annual wage increases, the agreement guarantees no strikes or lockouts during its six-year duration

"The members did an outstanding job of standing strong with the leadership," Darrell Kyle, president of Local 13-243, said.

An Exxon spokesman praised the agreement.

"This agreement provides additional continuity and enables the site to potentially enhance its competitive position," spokesman Todd Spitler said. "We believe the new collective bargaining agreement benefits our employees and operations."

Exxon campaigned for the longer contract to accommodate a possible expansion of the 344,600-barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery to a capacity as large as 850,000 bpd, according to sources who have spoken to Reuters. The addition of a third crude distillation unit to bring about the expansion is expected to take at least five years to complete.

Also under the agreement, the union may only call a strike with 75 days notice after the pact expires.

Workers will each receive a $5,000 bonus. They will receive a 2.5 per cent pay increase in the first year of the contract, three per cent in the second and third years and 3.5 per cent in the fourth year - the same increases as USW members will receive under the four-year national agreement.

In the fifth and sixth years, the Exxon Beaumont workers will receive the increases agreed to by the union and refinery owners in contract talks scheduled for 2019.

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