HOUSTON - The United Steelworkers union (USW) and representatives for several US refineries discussed on Thursday a possible resumption of face-to-face negotiations to settle a 26-day strike, two people familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
No date had been set as of Thursday for resuming direct meetings with Shell Oil Co, which is representing the refiners, the sources said.
About 6,550 USW members were on strike at 15 plants, including 12 refineries that account for one-fifth of national capacity. "The USW continues to be ready and willing to resume negotiations with Shell at any time," said union spokeswoman Lynne Hancock. "Other than that, I don't have any information on when talks will resume." Shell Oil Co, the US arm of Royal Dutch Shell Plc , was not immediately available for comment Thursday night.
Direct meetings between negotiators for the USW and Shell broke off on Friday, after refinery owners balked at a possible settlement and the union ordered walkouts at three Motiva Enterprises LLC refineries co-owned by Shell.
The USW has said it is seeking to retain safety provisions from previous contracts and tighten fatigue standards for workers, as well as win back daily maintenance jobs now done by non-union contractors.
Shell and other companies have said the strike came about because of the union's insistence on replacing the non-union contractors with USW members, which would impair management's flexibility in refinery staffing.
Companies have called on temporary replacement workers to keep plants running at nearly normal levels.