Union offers modified proposal to Exxon in Texas refinery lockout -official

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HOUSTON (Reuters) -The United Steelworkers union (USW) on Thursday modified its contract proposal to Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM) in a bid to end an eight-month lockout of about 600 workers at the company’s Beaumont, Texas, refinery, a union official said.

The sides held their first negotiating session since late October, meeting for about an hour on Thursday morning, said Bryan Gross, USW international representative.

“We made a few modifications around holiday pay and a few other items to match other Exxon Mobil contracts at the Baytown (Texas) and Baton Rouge (Louisiana) refineries,” Gross said. He said the proposal modifications were not concessions.

An Exxon spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

The two sides are awaiting results from a U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-supervised decertification vote on whether to remove the union from the plant.

The company has said it would end the lockout when an agreement is reached or when the union is removed through decertification.

Exxon has kept operating the 369,000-bpd refinery and oil-blending facility using supervisors, managers and temporary operators. The facility produces gasoline and Mobil 1 motor oil.

On Dec. 29, the NLRB said it impounded ballots in the decertification vote while it investigates the union’s complaints of unfair labor practices against Exxon. Results may not be known for several weeks, a NLRB spokeswoman said.

The federal board is reviewing union charges that the months-long lockout was intended to break the union at the plant and that Exxon improperly aided a union-removal campaign. Exxon has denied the allegations.

USW 13-243 officials have said Exxon’s offer would eliminate job security for many of its members, while the company has said the agreement is needed to operate profitably in low-margin environments.