Exxon Baytown laboratory workers accept contract extension

HOUSTON The last group of union workers at Exxon Mobil Corp’s (XOM.N) giant Baytown, Texas, refining and petrochemical complex voted on Thursday and Friday to accept a contract extension, a union official said on Friday night.

Laboratory unit workers, who make up about 10 percent of the 700 United Steelworkers union (USW) members working hourly jobs at Baytown, joined with refinery and chemical plant workers who had accepted the four-year extension in voting on March 24 and 25.

“Their resolve through the extension has made them the flagship of all three units,” USW Local 13-2001 President Ricky Brooks said of the laboratory workers after announcing the vote.

Laboratory workers rejected the extension in voting last week, following the recommendation of USW leaders who had argued against accepting the company’s first offer in talks to replace the current contract, which expires on May 15.

An Exxon spokesman hailed the extension’s ratification by all three units at Baytown.

“We agree with this successful outcome and early settlement of the contract,” said Exxon spokesman Todd Spitler. “The negotiation process was successful and has resulted in an agreement that is mutually beneficial for both the union and the company.”

After last week’s vote, the USW had asked Exxon to renew the extension offer to give laboratory workers a second opportunity to vote on the proposal that provides a 3 percent increase in hourly wages in 2016 and again in 2017, and a 3.5 percent increase in 2018.

The increases are equal to those agreed to by the USW and U.S. refinery owners following a national strike in 2015.

The pay level in 2019 will be equal to what the USW and refinery owners agree to in talks expected to begin in January 2019.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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