Ten unions agree to contract extension; company makes expansion plans
OIL WORKERS AT THE Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Ill., achieved a milestone this March when all 10 unions agreed to a seven-year contract extension with the owner, Conoco-Phillips.
“I can’t tell you how unheard of this is,” said Intl. Rep. Bill Staggs, referring to the contract’s long length. He said most contracts in the refining industry are for only three years. Staggs was president of Local 483, Alton, Ill., during most of the negotiations. When he became an IR, Jerome Tobin was elected president of Local 483, just one of the 10 unions that together represent over 500 of the 800 workers at the refinery.
Tobin was able to participate in the negotiations as they neared completion. He reported that the contract extension was signed March 12. “It [the extension] becomes effective June 1, 2007, and will last through May 31, 2014,” Tobin said. “And it includes a pay raise of 3.7 percent in the first year alone.” Wage increases in the remaining contract years will be based on the national average of other U.S. refineries.
Jay Hawley, human resources manager of Conoco-Phillips, praised the agreement, calling it “outstanding.” He commented that when he first started at the refinery, he heard that working with the unions might be tough; but, he said, “It’s been a pleasure.”
“The contract length creates long-term job security for the workers,” Staggs added, “and frees up the company to concentrate on its expansion plan.”
Conoco is the second-largest refiner in the United States, and its Roxana plant is the 10th-largest in the nation. They currently produce 306,000 barrels of refined petroleum products per day and plan to increase the daily production by 100,000 barrels through an expansion at the Roxana location. Conoco will invest $1 billion at the 2,500-acre plant over a period of years. They are planning to convert their production to refining heavy Canadian crude oil through a venture they are entering with EnCana, a Canadian corporation.