Members of the United Steelworkers, which make up about half of the 500 employees at the soon-to-close Phillips 66 Alliance refinery near Belle Chasse, denounced severance packages offered by the plant owner, saying the 16-week cap on severance pay hits long-tenured factory workers particularly hard.
Houston-headquartered company Phillips 66 said last month it had abandoned efforts to sell the refinery after flooding from Hurricane Ida, which meant it would have to spend hundreds of millions dollars to put it back into service.
Instead, company executives said they decided to convert the refinery into an oil storage terminal, which would mean laying off nearly all of its 500 direct employees, as well as 470 other sub- treating people.
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The United Steelworkers has since negotiated severance packages for its members to improve the terms of their current contract, which allows severance pay of only two to four weeks, no matter how long an employee works there.
Union members will vote Jan. 3-4 on terms that offer four weeks severance pay to anyone with up to two years of employment; eight weeks’ salary for those with between two and six years of service; 12 weeks for six to eleven years of service; and 16 weeks for those with more than 11 years of employment at the plant.
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David Delaneuville, the Steelworkers representative for District 13, which covers the Alliance refinery, said terms were well below a deal negotiated last year for Steelworkers at the Royal Dutch Shell plant. de Convent when it closed. But he said it was the best they could do under the circumstances.
“The agreement is very clear, that if it is not adopted (the union vote next week), it reverts to what we had in the old contract, which was a maximum severance package of four weeks” , said Delaneuville.
âOn top of that, we lose everything else that we negotiated like seniority (preference for any job going to the oil storage terminal or other refineries at Phillips 66), which would also be the contract of origin “, which means that Phillips 66 could choose which people they want to keep, regardless of the employment service.
Delaneuville said the union has no way of pressuring Phillips 66 to find out more, as the factory is set to close, leaving only around 20 union jobs that will survive when converted. in an oil storage facility.
“We’re just trying to get the best possible severance package to give people time to look for other jobs,” he said.
But grumbling among Steelworkers over the terms of the deal increased this week, with an email chain circulating among members in which some calling for a “no” vote at next week’s meeting.
“It’s not fair, especially to people who have been there for, say, 25 years and take care of everything we have to do at the plant,” said a paid factory operator. hourly who has worked at Alliance for a little over 10 years. He did not want to be named in case it jeopardized the payment of his severance pay.
He noted that the Alliance refinery had been without power since Hurricane Ida, while Phillips 66 forced employees to work overtime shoveling mud by hand with only portable toilets and few other facilities.
The biggest concerns expressed by Steelworkers about termination conditions were what they called unfairness, especially for long-tenured hourly workers.
Non-unionized salaried workers, such as factory supervisors, were offered three weeks of severance pay for each year worked, with a cap of 60 weeks. This meant that there was a huge gap between employees who could do broadly similar work and have similar years of service but different classifications.
“This is an insulting offer,” said another member of the USW Alliance, who has worked there for more than 20 years and who also wished to remain anonymous.
He said he earns between $ 90,000 and $ 100,000 a year, while his supervisor earns around $ 115,000. But the terms of the severance pay mean that he will receive about $ 28,000 against $ 133,000 for his salaried colleague with the same seniority.
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âI have spent most of my life here, between 30 and 50 years old,â he said. âBob Herman, (Head of Refining at Phillips 66), came to our site (last month) and said that all employees would be treated fairly. But now they’ve actually said they are very good at it. ‘deal to lower the standards by which Big Oil companies manage severance pay. “
Shell’s departure agreement last year for workers at the Convent refinery offered the same conditions for hourly and salaried workers. They all received three weeks of severance pay for each year worked, with a minimum of 12 weeks and a maximum of 78 weeks, depending on the years spent in the factory. The agreement also did not categorize broadband people with years of service, as the Phillips 66 agreement does.
The 20-year Alliance refinery veteran said there were only around 20 workers working there as long as him, meaning the 16-week cap saved money a paltry sum for a company with a market value of around $ 32 billion.
A spokesperson for the Alliance refinery had not answered questions about the separation agreement at press time.
The 10-year refinery veteran said the immediate concern for those losing their jobs now is health insurance coverage, which expires in late February for most laid-off workers.
âI’m just worried that much of the severance pay will be absorbed into health coverage until I can find another job,â he said.