The head of the union representing local ExxonMobil employees said an agreement reached last month could be finalized as soon as Friday.
Ken Duke, president of USW Local 13-12, said membership approved the three-year contract 72 percent to 28 percent and all that remains is making sure there are no errors in pay rates or omitted details. He said that could happen Friday when the union meets with management on an unrelated matter. The contract will then be printed and distributed among the roughly 1,000 members.
Union members had been working under a 75-day extension after the previous contract expired on March 31. A particularly contentious issue was a safety provision union leadership wanted as part of the contract. The union wanted a process-safety representative designated locally from its ranks, noting similar arrangements are in place at ExxonMobil facilities in Chalmette; Beaumont, Texas; Torrance, Calif.; and Billings, Mont.
The company contended such a position was unnecessary, and many union members themselves complained union leadership’s insistence on the provision was jeopardizing the livelihoods of its membership with its brinkmanship during the debate. A petition was even circulated to decertify the union.
Even though membership voted overwhelmingly to approve a contract that didn’t include the safety position, Duke said: “We are still going to continue to push for greater involvement with safety.”
ExxonMobil has said that the local refinery and chemical complex has traditionally not followed the so-called national pattern agreement when it comes to safety. The programs in Chalmette, Beaumont, Torrance and Billings included the safety position because the unions there had a history of participating with a company health and safety committee, which was not the case in Baton Rouge.
A company spokeswoman had said that contractually mandating union-covered positions would not guarantee increased safety, but would instead create the potential for disputes, grievances and third-party intervention over training and qualifications.
ExxonMobil issued a statement Thursday about the agreement.
“ExxonMobil considers our represented employees to be key stakeholders in our Refinery and Chemical Plant safety programs and performance, and we look forward to working together under this new agreement.”