Exxon hiring more temporary workers as Texas refinery lockout continues

Exxon Mobil Corp said on Wednesday it will begin hiring additional temporary operators of its Beaumont, Texas refinery as a lock out of 650 union-represented workers runs into its 11th week.

Exxon said it took the decision to hire the new workers after four meetings with the United Steelworkers (USW) union local 13-243 failed to yield the results the company expected.

“It is also worth clarifying that our USW represented employees remain employed by the company while locked-out and we look forward to welcoming them back when there is a ratified contract,” Exxon said in a statement posted to its website.

Hoot Landry, USW International staff representative, said Exxon’s hiring another group of temporary workers was meant to frighten the locked-out employees.

“That’s what they do to intimidate our members,” Landry said.

Exxon said in its statement the refinery is being run by superviors while the temporary workers, called contractor operators, “will help us to maintain headcount.”

Exxon locked out the union-represented workers at the 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery and adjoining lubricant oil plant on May 1 to avoid a strike as a 75-day labor peace period came to an end following the expiration of the contract.

The USW has said the company’s last proposal, made in April, requires its members to give up long-standing seniority and would create a separate contract for workers in the lube oil plant from that for workers in the refinery.

Exxon has said the proposal would give it flexibility to be profitable in low-margin environments.