OPERAI RAFFINERIE U.S.A. IN SCIOPERO

Redazione di Operai Contro, Migliaia di operai del settore petrolifero, tra cui quelli di EXXON, stanno scioperando in 9 Stati degli Stati Uniti d’America. Anche se molti raccontano la lotta come economicista ed incentrata sull’aumento della paga oraria, le rivendicazioni sono ben maggiori, e solo iniziali: abolizione del contributo obbligatorio dei dipendenti per l’assicurazione medica, protesta contro la continua riduzione di organico che comporta più lavoro e fatica a carico di chi resta, rifiuto delle esternalizzazioni per alcune mansioni affidate a ditte terze già specializzate, anzichè inserire formazione all’interno delle imprese… A seguire articolo originale. Saluti Operai da Pavia […]
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Redazione di Operai Contro,

Migliaia di operai del settore petrolifero, tra cui quelli di EXXON, stanno scioperando in 9 Stati degli Stati Uniti d’America. Anche se molti raccontano la lotta come economicista ed incentrata sull’aumento della paga oraria, le rivendicazioni sono ben maggiori, e solo iniziali: abolizione del contributo obbligatorio dei dipendenti per l’assicurazione medica, protesta contro la continua riduzione di organico che comporta più lavoro e fatica a carico di chi resta, rifiuto delle esternalizzazioni per alcune mansioni affidate a ditte terze già specializzate, anzichè inserire formazione all’interno delle imprese…

A seguire articolo originale. Saluti Operai da Pavia

m.l.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/04/oil-refinery-workers-go-on-strike/

Labor Up in Smoke?

Oil Refinery Workers Go on Strike

by DAVID MACARAY

On Sunday, when 3,800 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) walked off their jobs at nine oil refineries across the country (including two in my home state of California), it marked the first national oil refinery strike in more than three decades, going all the way back to 1980. Congratulations, USW. With this strike, organized labor is finally showing signs of life.

Although industry analysts have pointed out that gasoline prices were already edging upwards several days before the strike, everyone is going to blame the union for any rise in gas pump prices. And why wouldn’t they? Unions make excellent scapegoats. Indeed, with the strike only a couple days old, expect the oil companies to seize this opportunity to raise prices disproportionately.

But the facts tell a different story. Looking back to 1980, the year of the last national refinery strike, Phil Flynn, an analyst with the Price Futures Group, noted that even though that strike lasted a whopping three months, it had little effect on gasoline prices. According to Flynn, it raised prices only “a couple of pennies at best.”

The USW called this current strike after rejecting five substandard proposals (the union described the final offer as “insulting”) from Royal Dutch Shell, the company acting as lead negotiator for the oil industry. In a strategic move, the USW’s walkout targeted specific facilities. Among them: the Tesoro Corporation, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Petroleum, and LyondellBasell Industries, facilities stretching from California to Texas and Kentucky.

Aware that the oil companies and media will try to portray these union members as greedy bastards, USW spokeswoman, Lynne Hancock, made it clear that, while hourly wages are a component of these negotiations (as they have been in virtually every contract negotiation in every industry in history), they are not central to the bargain. This shutdown isn’t about hourly pay. “Wages are not a part of this walkout whatsoever,” she said.

Among the issues central to the strike are: mandatory employee contributions to medical insurance, continued reductions in headcount (leading to lower staffing, longer hours and more fatigue), and the company’s refusal to take seriously the union’s request that the membership be trained for jobs that are increasingly being performed by outside contractors.

This outside contractor issue has become a huge deal to unions everywhere. And when it reaches critical mass, it’s going to become a huge deal to non-union workers as well. Based on what’s occurring in the marketplace, it’s the dream of every company to change the status of their workers from “employee” to “independent contractor,” thereby allowing them not to have to pay for insurance, pensions, vacations or holidays.

Once your employees become classified as contractors, all you have to do is give them cash for doing the job. Write them a paycheck and be done with it. And because there’s almost always going to be a surplus of workers, market forces are going to constantly drive wages downward.

But even on those occasions when employers are required to pay top dollar for workers, the savings in benefits and administrative costs is going to be enormous. Which is why the move toward “de-categorizing” employees has become so popular.

No matter how this USW strike turns out, one hopes it sheds light on what’s become a dangerous trend. The notion of loyal employees retiring after working thirty years for the same company is an anachronism. Companies don’t want loyalty. They want flexibility. And what they can’t get from contractors, they’ll try and get from robots. It ain’t a pretty picture.

 

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    http://wagingnonviolence.org/2015/02/largest-steelworkers-strike-decades-shows-signs-abating/

    The United Steelworkers are currently engaged in their largest strike since 1980. Three thousand eight-hundred refinery workers across four states — California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington — walked off the job on Sunday at nine refineries that, together, represent 10 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Strikers are taking on some of the world’s most powerful corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron. The remainder of union refinery workers nationally are now working under rolling 24-hour contract extensions, as rumors fly that 63 more plants will join the strike in the coming weeks. In total, the United Steelworkers, or USW, control some 64 percent of the country’s refining capacity, producing 1.28 billion barrels of oil each day. Needless to say, labor and environmental advocates both have good reason to follow the strike closely.

    The USW represents 30,000 workers along the line of domestic fossil fuel production, from refineries to pipelines to export terminals. Unlike many strikes, the issue at hand is not wages but workplace and community safety. The strike was called after two weeks of contract negotiations fell through between the USW and Shell, representing the collection of oil companies affected by the contract and, now, the strike. “This is not a bunch of greedy workers trying to get more, more, more,” said USW spokesperson Lynne Hancock. “We know we’re well paid. That’s not the issue. We feel that we should come home in one piece at the end of a shift.”

    In addition to the strike, there have also been daily protests by workers and their supporters at oil refineries and company headquarters around the country. Adding to the drama, these demonstrations are taking place against the backdrop of a record drop in oil prices, leading industry executives to argue that they need to cut back on spending and, thus, safety. Hancock said over the phone that there’s been a trend over the last several years to replace full-time employees, represented by the union, with contracted workers who present a danger to plant safety. “Full time employees receive training not only from their company,” Hancock explained, “but from our international union that has an extensive health and safety program.” Understaffing, too, has been a persistent problem, as contractors lease out employees technically employed in refineries out to other jobs. This leaves full-time workers, already working 12-hour shifts, putting in “excessive overtime.” As companies look to employ a more “flexible” (read: non-union) workforce, refinery employees and community members alike are put at risk for sometimes-catastrophic accidents, such as fires, explosions and leaks that release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. As Hancock told me, strikers are also acting out of concern for themselves and the communities living around the refinery, because “they breath in all this stuff, in addition to our workers.”

    The Phillips Disaster of 1989 was sparked when a contractor incorrectly opened a reactor valve during routine maintenance at a Pasadena, Texas petrochemical plant. The mistake released a highly flammable, rapidly spreading vapor cloud into the plant’s atmosphere. When the cloud reached an ignition source, an explosion occurred that killed 23 people and injured 314. It also registered a 3.5 on the Richter Scale in the surrounding area, and threw debris as far as six miles from the site of impact. That incident and those since, such as a 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, have prompted exhaustive state and federal safety reviews, even leading the USW to testify before Congress. Still, enforcement standards are lax: the notoriously anti-labor American Petroleum Institute, perhaps the fossil fuel industry’s most influential lobbying arm, is responsible for drafting the few, still “recommended” safety standards outside of OSHA and the EPA, which regulates plants emissions. The federal Chemical Safety Board, another regulatory body, can suggest, but not enforce safety measures.

    Even as Shell plays “hardball,” the USW hopes that the two sides can come to an agreement soon. Still, the 1980 strike lasted for three months, and this one shows few signs of abating without serious concessions from Shell. Less than a week in, the USW is already starting to hit the industry where it hurts, even as companies call on non-union management crews to replace striking employees and keep production steady. Reuters reports that oil traders have attributed a slight rise in gas prices to the strike, as wholesale buyers move to stock up on supplies. Moving forward, Hancock says that “our members are well aware it could be a long time.” The fossil fuel industry should be too.