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Some 600 workers at an Exxon refinery in Texas who were locked out for ten months reached a deal with the company and will be allowed to return to work.
Reuters reports that the 600 union workers, who were locked out to prevent them from going on a wildcat strike, had agreed to a key demand from Exxon: that the company had the right to determine assignments.
Assignment determination was one of the sticky points during the negotiations between the United Steelworkers members and Exxon. Before, some work assignments were determined by worker seniority. Now, however, the workers have agreed that Exxon will decide all assignments for the six-year period of the contract the two parties signed.
"The membership decided to accept the offer after 10 months of a fight," said a representative of the United Steelworkers union, as quoted by Reuters. "The company started the lockout; they can end it at any time."
The lockout began last May. Since then, negotiations have been ongoing with several company proposals voted down by the locked out workers. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board also got involved in the dispute after the United Steelworkers union filed charges that Exxon was using the lockout in an attempt to force out the trade union from the Beaumont refinery.
Exxon had said that the lockout would end either when a mutually acceptable contract is agreed, or when the union is removed. The workers voted in favor of the latest contract proposal 214 to 133.
The Beaumont refinery has a capacity of close to 370,000 bpd of crude. Four years ago, Exxon said it planned to significantly expand the complex's capacity, which would make it the largest refinery in the United States, capable of processing between 700,000 and 850,000 bpd. Because of the pandemic, however, the expansion may be completed later than initially planned.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com