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Strike Averted

HOUSTON -- A national oil workers' union has accepted an offer from oil companies, ending the threat of a strike at U.S. oil refineries.

The agreement between negotiators for the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers (PACE) International Union and Shell Oil and its affiliated companies sets the minimum standard for oil contracts at union locals across the United States, said Lynne Baker, spokeswoman for PACE.

Now that Shell, the lead company in the talks, and PACE have come to agreement, most local unions are expected to settle with their respective companies across the United States, according to Reuters. There has not been a U.S. oil workers' strike since 1980.

PACE last week had threatened a targeted strike against six oil refineries owned by Exxon Mobil Corp., BP Plc, ChevronTexaco Corp. and Phillips Petroleum Co. That strike notice was rescinded when Shell told the union it was coming to the negotiating table with a fresh offer.

PACE may reissue the strike notice unless companies agree to give oil workers at the ChevronTexaco plant in Richmond, Calif., and the Equilon Enterprises LLC plant in Martinez, Calif. bigger pay hikes because of the high cost of living in northern California, the report said.

Shell's Gail Schutz said the national agreement would not be presented to northern California oil workers until the local pay dispute can be settled.

The new contract runs from Feb. 1, 2002 to Jan. 31, 2006 and includes the following provisions:
* A wage increase of 85 cents an hour (3.5 percent) in the first year with subsequent annual raises of 3.5 percent, 3.7 percent, and 4 percent.
* A letter of agreement on job security including no-layoffs unless a plant is sold, closed or merged.
* An evening shift differential of 75 cents an hour and an overnight shift differential of $1.50 an hour, up from 50 cents and $1.00 per hour, respectively.
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