BUSINESS
04/27/2012 01:00 pm ET | Updated Jun 27, 2012

United Steelworkers To Exxon: 'Treat Us Equally'

* USW says Exxon has failed to offer key safety provision

* Talks for a new contract to continue till mid-June

HOUSTON, April 27 (Reuters) - Negotiations for a new contract covering hourly workers at Exxon Mobil Corp's refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana have stalled over a disagreement on worker safety, The United Steelwokers union (USW) said on F rid ay.

An Exxon spokeswoman said the company had no immediate comment about contract talks at the 502,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery, Exxon's second-largest refinery and the country's third largest.

The USW said Exxon has failed to offer a key safety provision of the national contract agreed to by oil companies and the USW in February, and which four of Exxon's refineries approved at that time.

"All ExxonMobil management has to do is treat us equally, give us the same (national agreement) as they have offered to Billings, Beaumont, Torrance and Chalmette (refineries)," said Kenneth Duke, president of the USW local union in Baton Rouge. "This is all the company has to do to bring us a contract that we can ratify."

Specifically, the union said Exxon has not offered to Baton Rouge workers a contract with a provision for a process safety representative that USW and the company would appoint at the refinery.

That position is intended to focus on safety and reliability in the refinery production process as opposed to general safety.

Federal safety investigators have criticized so-called "slips-trips-and-falls" general safety programs as providing a false sense of security about safety at oil refineries when potentially catastrophic problems are developing with refining process equipment.

While most U.S. refineries agreed to the national contract in February, the contracts at several refineries expire after the national agreement was reached.

The agreement between Exxon and USW at Baton Rouge expired on March 31, but there is 75-day contract extension in place to continue talks. The talks will continue until mid-June.