Chevron, union negotiators to meet over California oil refinery strike

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FILE PHOTO: United Steelworkers union (USW) union members protest in support of workers on strike at Chevron Corp's Richmond, California, refinery, in San Antonio

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Negotiators from Chevron Corp and the United Steelworkers union (USW) are scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss a possible end to a strike at the company’s oil refinery in Richmond, California, spokespeople for both sides said.

The talks will be the first face-to-face meeting in nearly two weeks between Chevron and USW Local 12-5. Some 500 workers at the 245,271 barrel-per-day refinery formally began the strike on March 21 after the two sides failed to reach agreement on a new labor contract.

Chevron has continued to operate the refinery, its second largest in California, with managers and supervisors. The plant provides about 20% of Northern California’s gasoline and 60% of the jet fuel used at area airports, according to Chevron.

“We look forward to continuing formal discussions,” said Chevron spokesperson Tyler Kruzich.

The two sides have held informal talks in recent days, said Kruzich and B.K. White, first vice president of Local 12-5.

The union began the strike after members of Local 12-5 had twice rejected the company’s contract proposal. They are seeking a 5% pay increase on top of the 12%-over-four-years national wage increase agreed to by the USW International union and U.S. refinery owners.

The union has said it sought the additional pay because most of the wage increases in recent years were eaten up by high health insurance and housing costs in California.

The refinery has reported at least two malfunctions since the stoppage began, according to state filings. It is preparing to shut the crude distillation unit for a planned overhaul in mid-April. Those units do the primary refining of crude oil and provide feedstocks for all other units.

One of the malfunctions forced the temporary shutdown of a jet fuel hydrotreater, which pushed prices upward in California markets temporarily. Jet fuel and diesel prices have fallen this week.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba)