Union calls 1% annual pay rise offer for U.S. refinery workers ‘ridiculous’

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United Steelworkers flag flies outside the Local 1299 union hall in Ecorse, Michigan,

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON -A pay raise offer of 1% a year for workers made by lead oil industry negotiator Marathon Petroleum is “ridiculous,” the United Steelworkers union said in a message to members on Wednesday.

“We didn’t work from home during the pandemic. We showed up and kept our facilities running,” the union said in the message, which was seen by Reuters. The message said the offer would give 30,000 U.S. refinery and chemical plant workers a 1% pay increase for each of three years under the contract being negotiated.

Marathon Petroleum spokesperson Jamal Kheiry said the negotiations are covering various topics.

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“We are committed to bargaining in good faith and working toward a mutually satisfactory agreement,” Kheiry said.

Under the current contract, which expires Feb. 1, workers received pay increases of 3.5% in each of the contract’s first two years and 4% in the third and last year.

Going into talks, the union was seeking “significant” pay increases and improvements in health insurance, according to people familiar with deliberations over the summer within the USW who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Refiners and chemical producers began recovering in 2021 from large losses in 2020 when lockdowns and work-from-home policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 drove down motor fuel demand.

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(Reporting by Erwin SebaEditing by Chris Reese, Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy)