‘Disappointed’ in union, Shell says it is hiring relief workers

In the first few weeks of the United Steelworkers union strike, managers stepped in at Shell Oil Co. to keep its refinery and chemical plant running.

As the strike enters its second month, Shell has been training “relief employees” to operate its Deer Park refinery as well as its Norco chemical plant in Louisiana, according to a letter to employees from Aamir Farid, manufacturing vice president, Americas.

With the relief workers, Shell is hoping to return to business as normal, despite the continuation of the strike, according to Farid.

The notification that Shell is bringing in new workers comes only two days before the Steelworkers and Shell are scheduled to meet for another round of negotiations. Shell is the lead negotiator for the industry.

Shell expects to reach its goal of returning to normal by midsummer. At that time, it also expects its managers to return to their regular duties.

“We are disappointed that the USW International Union seems unwilling to achieve a timely and reasonable agreement; but, we are also determined to continue running our business — this is in the best interest of our employees, our customers, the sites and the communities in which we operate,” according to Farid.

Staffing firms that specialize in providing replacement refinery operators for labor disputes have been advertising for the past few weeks in Houston.

One firm looking for field operators is offering $45 an hour plus $40 per day per diem with a guarantee of at least 60 hours a week of work.