As a strike affecting 10% of the nation’s fuel supply ended its third day, oil company negotiators were meeting with representatives of the United Steelworkers on Tuesday evening in an effort to reach an agreement.
In advance of that meeting, however, it appears the parties are still far apart and are, in fact, digging in for a longer and wider strike.
According to Yahoo News, as the oil companies continue to hold firm, the union is seeking wage increases, more union members to be employed by the companies, as well as a reduction in the amount of money employees contribute to their health care.
Executives have made clear they will try to hold firm, saying they cannot afford to lift wages because crude prices have sunk 50 percent since June, eroding their profits.
Other executives have suggested Shell, acting as the lead negotiator for oil companies, gave away too much in negotiations held in years past.
Meanwhile, the USW has said further walkouts may be ordered at some of the other 63 refineries and chemical plants it represents if progress is not made.
The union is seeking annual pay increases of 6 percent, double the size of those in the last agreement. It also wants work that has been given in the past to non-union contractors to start going to USW members, a tighter policy to prevent workplace fatigue and reductions in members’ out-of-pocket payments for healthcare. [Emphasis added.]
Meanwhile, although President Obama has the legal means to end the strike by invoking a “cooling-off period” and ordering mediation as he has in other strikes, the White House has not indicated whether or not President is inclined to do so.