North America Refining News
Unions Agree to Seven-year Pact with Refinery
by Cynthia M. Ellis, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
March 27, 2007
Oil workers at the ConocoPhillips Wood River (Ill.) Refinery unanimously approved a new contract this month -- ensuring seven years of labor stability in a pact praised by both sides.
"(The new deal) is going to help us keep focused," refinery manager Herman Seedorf said.
The company's 10 unions agreed to a seven-year contract extension on March 12. The unions represent 502 of the company's 802 employees.
"This was a collaborative effort to maintain a stable work force in light of (the company's) expansion and growth," said George Machino, business representative from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399.
Jack Tueth, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 649, said it was a concentrated effort by everyone to strike a deal before the old contract ended on May 31. Negotiations between the company and the unions started in December.
The unions include: International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, AFL-CIO, Local Lodge No. 483; Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity; IBEW, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 649; International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 56; Laborers' Local Union No. 338; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 399/525; Pipefitters' and Plumbers' Local Union No. 553, affiliated with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO; Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, AFL-CIO, Local Union No. 268; and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, AFL-CIO, Local No. 525.
Company officials, union representatives, state Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, and state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, gathered at the refinery Monday morning as a symbolic gesture in being able to bring everyone together.
Jay Hawley, human resources manager of ConocoPhillips, praised the agreement.
"It's outstanding," Hawley said. "A contract like this is pretty unheard of in the refining business. Most contracts are two to three years."
Chris Zahn, business representative of the Teamsters Local 525, said signing the contract was the right thing to do in today's business environment. He said the new pact creates long-term job security.
Machino said everyone mutually agreed to accept the settlement, based on national averages of refinery workers.
Workers negotiated a five-year contract when Tosco purchased the refinery in the spring of 2000. A two-year extension was granted in 2005.
The new contract starts on June 1 and ends May 31, 2014. Neither side disclosed details of the agreement, except to say that during the first year, union employees would receive a 3.7 percent salary increase.
Both Haine and Beiser commended the work of everyone involved.
Haine said that knowing contract negotiations are out of the way, the company could focus on its expansion plan.
The refinery plans to invest $1 billion in the 2,500-acre plant over a period of years and enter a venture with a Canadian oil corporation, EnCana, which will boost its daily output by nearly 100,000 barrels.
The plant will convert its production to refining heavy Canadian crude oil. The plant currently produces 306,000 barrels of refined petroleum products per day.
Conoco is the second-largest refiner in the United States. The Roxana-based plant is the 10th-largest in the nation.
Hawley said when he first started at the refinery, he heard that working with the unions might be tough.
"It's been a pleasure," he said.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.