US Oil Workers – It’s All About Safety

USW oil workers have been forced into an unfair labor practice strike. The workers are fighting to secure fair contracts that will protect the health and safety of workers and communities. The oil industry is the richest in the world, but their greed and their bad faith bargaining has stalled efforts to improve conditions in their workplaces. The industry has refused to address serious health and safety issues.

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An Open Letter To Socialist Party Members In Unite

The following is an open and public letter from members of Unite’s United Left grouping to members of the Socialist Party who are  standing candidates against Labour candidates in marginal seats in the forthcoming General Election.

“Dear Comrades,

This Coalition government has been responsible for attacks on our class  that go far beyond anything Thatcher would have dreamed of. Their austerity  policies have been targeted on the poor and vulnerable in our society. They  have lined the pockets of their Hedge Fund backers and speculators in the City with billions of public money.

They have been responsible for attacks on the organised labour movement and have been open in their support for  even more draconian legislation if re-elected. New proposed laws which would make effective trade union action virtually illegal.

The Tories are  not campaigning in this election as the ‘Hug-A-Hoodie’, party that can be  trusted with the NHS, they are back as The Nasty Party fighting on a class  war programme.

While Unite policy is to support Labour, in fact to do all we can to elect a Labour Government, your organisation has decided to stand candidates in  the forthcoming general election. Of course that is your right; we are a  trade union not a political party, we do not have any disciplinary means to  force you to support union policy and rightly so.

Within the UL there is then a clear political difference; on the one hand  the majority, working for a Labour victory who are also intent on developing the left within the Party and your goal, of standing candidates in the election as part of becoming the political alternative to Labour. In our view a big claim for some 1,000 – 2,000 people, whose track record in elections is derisory.

While we know we can’t dissuade you from standing candidates we consider you have crossed a line by standing candidates in marginals. We would ask you to withdraw your candidates from the 100 Labour must win marginals. In our view standing in these seats is a breach in a working class front against the Tories.

You are not a rival to Labour. While Labour are standing to win every seat and form a Government, you know very well you will not win one seat let alone form a government. Rather your goal is to recruit to, and make propaganda for your organisation.

By standing in marginals you are not just ‘building the party’ you are also taking votes from Labour – those who vote for you, and those you influence not to vote Labour. While the numbers you convince will be small, in such a tight election where every vote counts you must realise it may mean Labour losing seats, in effect allowing seats to be won by the Tories or their partners in crime the Lib Dems.

The logic of your position goes further; it is to argue, where there is no SP candidate, workers should abstain. If of course we have misunderstood your position then why are you fielding candidates in marginals Labour can win?

The only rationale for this cavalier attitude is because you believe there is no difference between Labour and the other capitalist parties. This is blind sectarianism, yet Labour is supported by nearly every union, and unions are the mass organisations of workers, do the unions not count for anything?

We urge you then as fellow UL members to reconsider standing in marginals and so not breaking the front against the Tories.

Signed:

Tony Woodhouse UL, Chair Unite Executive Council

Mark Lyons UL, Vice Chair Unite Executive Council

Martin Mayer Chair Unite UL

Terry Abbott UL, Chair North-West Regional Committee

Dick Banks UL, Chair North-East Regional Committee

Liam Gallagher UL, Chair Unite Ireland

Mike Jenkins UL, Chair Unite Wales

Jim Kelly UL, Chair London & Eastern Regional Committee

Gordon Lean UL, Chair South-East Regional Committee

Kev Terry UL, Chair South-West Regional Committee

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International Unions Support Locked Out Glencore Workers.

gencore-groupOne Hundred USW members and allies from trade unions from Texas and around the world visited the Houston offices of multinational corporation Glencore on February 26th to present the company with a silver medal in in recognition of its second-place finish in the 2015 Public Eye Lifetime Awards for corporate irresponsibility.

The delegation, led by members of USW Local 235A in Gregory, Texas, included USW oil workers, members of the Service Employees International Union, and union reps from Unite in the UK (USW’s sister union in Workers Uniting),  Australia and South Africa.

Click here for link to TV News report.

Sherwin Alumina, a subsidiary of Glencore, illegally locked out 450 members of Local 235A on Oct. 11 after the membership overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal that demanded steep cuts in benefits for both active employees and retirees.

“This company’s bad behavior doesn’t begin and end at Sherwin. Glencore has mistreated workers and harmed communities on nearly every continent. When a company that generates hundreds of billions in revenue each year consistently engages in this kind of reckless behavior, there must be consequences,” said USW District 13 Director Ruben Garza.

SherwinGlobalAfter presenting the Glencore “award,” the group joined striking USW oil workers on picket lines at refineries in Houston, Deer Park and Texas City.

Unite activist Charlotte Upton, who is an electrician at Tata Steel in Scunthorpe, England, has taken part in labour solidarity events in Cuba, Palestine and Mexico on her first visit to the United States she said: “The way that our brothers and sisters are treated is disgusting. It’s important that we recognize that we have the same struggles. We need to stand together.”

Patrick Mathebane, of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in South Africa, said that the only way to win against global corporations is to fight them on a global scale.

Mathebane said Glencore recently announced its decision to close the Optimum Coal Mine in Mpumalanga, a move that shocked union members and could put more than 1,000 people out of work.

“We are aware of what Glencore’s approach is around the world,” Mathebane said.

Alan Scott, a member of Australia’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), works at Glencore’s Clermont coal mine in north-eastern Australia, and is currently in a battle with the company over his illegal discharge.

“It’s important that we come together and gain a better understanding of what’s going on around the world,” Scott said.

Glencore, the 10th-largest company in the world with net income of $4.6 billion in 2013, finished ahead of Wal-Mart and behind only Chevron in the Public Eye online vote. Allegations of firings, anti-union intimidation and tax evasion have followed Glencore to work sites all over the world, from the United States to Australia, South Africa and South America.

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US Oil Strike – More Refineries Walk Out

10855012_777872678947558_6027490742054471957_oAccording to reports on the negotiation front, it is being reported that “it’s been a quiet week for striking oil workers and energy executives”.

The United Steelworkers added three more refineries, including the USA’s largest refinery and one chemical plant to the strikes.

Workers at Shell and Motiva refineries in Norco, Louisiana, about 30 miles west of New Orleans joined the strike.

Click here to read excellent reports on the strike in Louisiana

However Shell have issued a statement stating that: “We can confirm that Shell and USW have agreed to speak next Wednesday (March 4th) as both parties continue efforts to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement,”

- Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said in a written statement Friday afternoon.

Shell is the lead negotiator in the oil industry in the bargaining talks with the United Steelworkers union.

Fifteen refineries and chemical plants are on strike and the USW reports excellent support from its members and from unions worldwide.

In the U.S., the union represents more than 230 refineries, oil terminals, pipelines and petrochemical facilities in the U.S. Of those, 65 are refineries that process nearly two-thirds of the crude oil in the nation.

While the union called strikes, members continue to work as usual at the other plants that are operating under rolling 24-hour contract extensions.

For updates, photos and events visit the Facebook page.

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Germany: IG Metall Wins 3.4% Pay Deal

c9f2f2f25733f8d484584ba1407ffd14cda85ed7Germany’s largest union IG Metall which cover engineering, automotive, aerospace, electrical and other skilled metalworking trades has agreed a 3.4% pay rise for 12 months from April.

The union, which represents 3.7 million workers across Germany had originally demanded a rise of 5.5%, with employers offering 2.2%. This lead to warning strikes by 850,000 IG Metall members.

The deal also includes a one-off payment of 150 Euros and also includes a new collective agreement on flexible transition to retirement.

IG Metall traditionally sets the pace for wage agreements across Germany and expectations are that remaining pay deals will be around 3% to 4%.

The deal was struck in the Baden-Württemberg region and is expected to be implemented across the country. Roman Zitzelsberger, the IG Metall union leader in the region said the agreement will assure that the economy’s main engine at the moment, private consumption, will keep running and described the deal as a “satisfactory compromise.”

The deal shows that in Germany unions are benefitting from strong demand for skilled labour, with unemployment now at a post-reunification low and vacancy rates running ahead of the supply of new skilled workers.

Germany will also begin the the in phasing of a national minimum wage of €8.50 an hour by January 2017.

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LATEST: Steelworkers – Oil Strike Expands : 7,000 Workers On Strike

1200x-1The United Steelworkers (USW) announced that it will expand its unfair labour practice strike (ULP) by launching a work stoppage at midnight at the Motiva Enterprises refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.

This refinery, a 50-50 joint venture between Shell Oil Company (American subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) and Saudi Refining, Inc. (subsidiary of Saudi Aramco), produces more than 600,000 barrels per day (BPD).

In addition, 24 hour strike notices were delivered at Motiva’s two Louisiana refineries in Convent and Norco as well as at the Shell Chemical plant in Norco. Capacity at these facilities is 235,000 and 238,000 (BPD).

 These refineries are also jointly operated by Royal Dutch Shell and Saudi Refining, Inc. of Saudi Arabia.

“The industry’s refusal to meaningfully address safety issues through good faith bargaining gave us no other option but to expand our work stoppage,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.

 Some 1,350 USW members are employed at the three refineries and the chemical plant that together have a daily capacity of 1,073,260 (BPD).

“We’re committed to reaching a settlement that works for both parties” said USW Vice President Tom Conway, “but adequate staffing levels, worker fatigue and other important safety issues must be addressed.”

Our members are speaking loud and clear,” said Gary Beevers, USW International Vice President who oversees the union’s oil sector. “If it takes a global fight to win safe workplaces, so be it.”

 The work stoppage began at midnight on February 1st. Previously, 11 facilities and 5,200 workers went out on the ULP strike.

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USW Statement On “Lack of Progress” In Oil Strike Talks.

2015-02-06t031109z_2_lynxmpeb14180_rtroptp_4_refineries-strike.jpg_1718483346Day 10: There was little progress as bargaining with the industry resumed.  When talks recessed last week the industry told the USW bargaining committee that they would be bringing one of their maintenance experts to discuss the issue of contractors in refineries.  

Instead of bringing their expert, the industry brought a confidentiality agreement and no new information.

After a discussion about the industry’s failure to bargain in good faith and their game playing regarding our legitimate requests for information the USW put forward a proposal to remove contractors and adequately staff facilities to ensure safe operations along with the rest of our agenda.

The industry said that they would need more time to assess our proposal and gather the data that we had requested last week.

The industry also continues to insist that they will not agree to language that restricts their ability to staff facilities as they see fit — regardless of the safety implications—and they will not agree to language that would limit their ‘flexibility’ by restricting their ability to contract out work.

The USW bargaining committee is available and ready to continue bargaining and we hope the industry will come to the table tomorrow with the information that we have requested and ready to address the issues that matter to USW members.

Letter from UK TUC to Leo Gerard of the USW. Click Here

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USW, Allies In Europe United
 In Fight For Safety At Oil Refineries

150208103209-oil-strike-780x439A delegation of striking oil refinery workers from the United Steelworkers (USW) will bring their campaign for a safer oil industry to Europe this week, meeting with allies from labor unions in the Netherlands and Great Britain.

 The group, led by USW District 11 Director Emil Ramirez, includes striking workers from refineries owned by Shell, Marathon and Tesoro. Shell, which has taken the lead on bargaining for the companies, has its headquarters in the Netherlands.

The USW members will meet with leaders from the FNV oil workers union at Shell and LyondellBasell in the Netherlands this week then they will travel to London on Thursday to meet with leaders from Unite the Union, the largest industrial union in Great Britain and Ireland and the USW’s partner union in Workers Uniting.

“The USW deeply appreciates the support of the FNV, UNITE and other unions in the oil industry worldwide in our fight to ensure that U.S. refineries are safe for our members who work in them and for the communities that surround them,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.

The group will update the European unions on the status of bargaining and also carry a message of the importance of safety in an industry that in just the past eight years has seen at least 349 reported fires, many of which have led to fatalities, explosions and catastrophic injuries.

More than 5,000 USW members are on an unfair labor practice strike at 11 refineries owned by Shell, Marathon, Tesoro, BP and LyondellBasell that began after Shell failed to offer serious proposals to address the USW’s concerns about safety, onerous overtime and unsafe staffing levels.

The USW represents workers at 65 U.S. refineries that produce about 64 percent of the oil in the United States.

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US Oil Strikes Latest: Stoppages Spread To BP

1200x-1The United Steelworkers (USW) who represent thousands of striking oil refinery workers have said that workers at BP Refineries will be hit by strikes today (Sunday) in the next wave of industrial action which has speed across the US oil industry.

BP’s Whiting, Indiana and Toledo, Ohio refineries are joining the union’s ‘unfair labor practice strike’ against the oil industry that began on February 1s after the companies failed to address serious concerns regarding the health and safety of workers and their communities.

The union gave BP management notice on February 6th that about 1,100 members of USW Local 7-1 at the Whiting refinery and some 340 members of Local 346-3 on Saturday would join nearly 3,800 USW oil workers already on a ULP strike at nine refineries in California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.

The strikes are the first held in support of a nationwide pay deal since 1980. The plants on strike account for more than 10% of U.S. refining capacity. Some refineries are already at a standstill.

Royal Dutch Shell, is the lead industry negotiator who walked away from the negotiations after demanding that the union withdraw claims in relation to healthcare.

“Shell refused to provide us with a counter-offer and left the bargaining table,” USW International President Leo Gerard said. “We had no choice but to give notice of a work stoppage.”

Watch Leo Gerard explain the US Oil Strikes in this interview with Ed Shultz of MSNBC.

Strikes are taking place at Exxon Mobil Corp’s refinery in Beaumont, Texas; two Marathon Petroleum refineries; LyondellBasell’s plant near Houston; Marathon’s refinery in Kentucky; Tesoro Corp’s Benicia and Martinez plants in California and its refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

The expiring three-year national contract covers 30,000 hourly paid workers at plants that together account for two-thirds of U.S. refining capacity.

Leo Gerard said that the oil industry is long overdue to address many of the issues the union brought to the table that directly impact workers’ health and safety.

“We are absolutely committed to negotiating a fair contract that improves safety conditions throughout the industry,” Gerard said. “Management cannot continue to resist allowing workers a stronger voice on issues that could very well make the difference between life and death for too many of them.”

USW negotiators are determined to resolve the members’ central issues.

“After long days of discussions with the industry’s lead company, Shell Oil, little progress has been made on our members’ central issues concerning health and safety, fatigue, inadequate staffing levels that differ from what is shown on paper, contracting out of daily maintenance jobs, high out-of-pocket and health care costs,” said USW International Vice President President Gary Beevers, who heads the union’s National Oil Bargaining Program (NOBP).

“In addition, Shell has failed to accept the “no-retrogression” language that refers to acceptance of previous agreements with the industry,” Beevers added. “We will not relinquish 50 years of progress in NOBP bargaining.”

Added USW International Vice President of Administration Tom Conway: “Our workers need enforceable contract language on their issues that holds the industry accountable.

“It is amazing that an industry—which has such a potential for danger both in the workplace and within the surrounding communities of their facilities—is refusing to engage in any serious dialogue with their work force about issues which are central to their mission and the development of a qualified, well-trained work force to meet future needs.

“Accordingly, the USW has been compelled to expand the ULP strike to now include 11 refineries around the nation,” Conway added. “The USW urges the industry to begin to engage in a more serious dialogue.”

Workers at the BP facilities in Whiting, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio, will join the ULP strike at 12:01 a.m. (today) Sunday morning.

Negotiations between the USW and oil industry representatives are on a temporary hiatus, while the USW waits for the companies to comply with a long pending information request.

Messages of support to striking oil workers and the USW can be sent to pyoung@usw.org

You can tweet messages of support via @USWOilWorkers

Visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/OilBargaining

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MG Rover workers still owed a payout years after this sorry saga

MG-Rover-workers-leaving-Longbridge-in-2005-after-learning-of-the-collapse-of-the-carmakerMG Rover workers leaving Longbridge in 2005 after learning of the collapse of the carmaker

The Phoenix Four should still do the right thing. By directing the proceeds of the Deloitte fine to former employees, the FRC could show them an example, write Professor David Bailey and Richard Burden MP

Back in 2013, the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm Deloitte was fined a record £14 million by the accountancy regulator the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) for failing to manage conflicts of interest in relation to its work as corporate advisers for companies involved with MG Rover.

Deloitte subsequently appealed against the findings, and last week over-turned some of the findings against them, notably in relation to the project grandly named “aircraft”. We now expect a revised fine against Deloitte to be calculated.

Deloitte was of course delighted by this, stating that it was “pleased that the findings of failing adequately to consider the public interest and deliberate serious misconduct have been overturned. We take such responsibilities extremely seriously and these findings were entirely unreflective of the integrity and values of our firm”.

That’s alright then? Well, no. Deloitte hardly covered itself in glory in the whole affair. Let’s note that the Appeal Tribunal upheld several findings of misconduct in relation to Deloitte’s work on ‘Project Platinum’, the project to dispose of Rover’s multi million pound loan book.

Deloitte grudgingly noted the latter in a rather terse statement that “we accept the tribunal’s findings that aspects of our client engagement processes could have been better”.

As the FRC notes, the Appeal Hearing found some significant issues of misconduct in this case concerning the need for accountants to act with objectivity. And the FRC is right to stress that the need for safeguarding and maintaining confidence in the accountancy profession and in upholding the standards expected of members.

On a practical level, it’s essential that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) sorts out its guidance for accountants on how they should do that. There would appear to have been some shortcomings from this accountancy body on this score.

Deloitte of course had spun furiously after the original FRC finding in 2013 to try to maintain the tenuous narrative that the way it behaved helped to generate value and to keep MG Rover going for five years. What utter claptrap. A £500 million dowry from BMW kept the firm afloat for five years, which bought time for the Regional Development Agency and the Government’s MG Rover Talk Force to help the supply chain and the West Midlands economy to adjust.

Those efforts were crucial to reducing the scale of job losses when MG Rover finally collapsed in 2005. Initiatives by the Rover Task Force also served as a model for helping many more firms get through the global financial crash that happened three years later.

Back at Longbridge itself, the workforce did everything that was asked of them to make MG Rover a success. But the firm slid downhill with ageing models and without finding a partner.

Over those five years MG Rover consumed what assets it had whilst the Phoenix Four (plus One) did a superb job of stuffing cash into their pockets before MG Rover went bust. They systematically insulated themselves from the consequences of impending failure while leaving their own employees’ jobs and pensions utterly exposed.

Remember that the Phoenix Four had set up Phoenix to buy the loss-making carmaker from BMW for a token tenner back in 2000, with MG Rover coming with a £500 million dowry from the German car-maker. The Four then set up a hugely complex financial structure, with advice. The four were able to move money around and extract value – to the tune of £42 million in salaries, pensions and other benefits for themselves.

The Phoenix Four didn’t face any criminal charges as the complex financial structure they set up to extract value before MG Rover collapsed was cleverly designed and within the rules. True, they were disqualified from being directors of any company for up to six years. But they kept the millions.

As for Deloitte, their fees for advising Phoenix were substantial. They still face the prospect of fines for their trouble.

So what about the workers? They lost their jobs. It was only thanks to a new Pension Protection Fund set up by the Labour government of the day that they were able to keep most of their pensions. Their own pension fund went down with MG Rover. And while many former employees later found work, our research showed many earning significantly less than when at MG Rover.

So we welcome the FRC’s diligent work, the original tribunal’s decision, and those findings upheld by the appeal. The work of the FRC is in essence the only substantive follow up to what was the biggest collapse in recent British business history.

But what we’d still like to see is some of the fine for Deloitte (whatever it turns out to be) going to compensate the workers and their families who lost out when the firm went bust. The Phoenix Four promised to set up a trust fund to do just that. It was another promise on which they did not deliver. The Phoenix Four should still do the right thing. By directing the proceeds of the Deloitte fine to former employees, the FRC could show them an example

In April it will be exactly ten years on from the closure. We shouldn’t forget the workers.

* Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, and Professor David Bailey, of Aston Business School, jointly submitted this column which first appeared in the Birmingham Post.

 

 

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