Engineering News

Union: Refiner Wants To Trim Workforce In Philly
February 12, 2009

Sunoco Inc. wants to run its Philadelphia oil refinery, among the 10 largest in the nation, with about 100 fewer workers, the local union president said Wednesday.

The company proposal to eliminate 100 of 400 operators is part of tough negotiations started three weeks ago over a union contract to replace one that expires March 1, said Jim Savage, president of United Steelworkers Local 10-1.

"I feel like I'm negotiating with a company in bankruptcy," said Savage, whose local represents more than 700 at the South Philadelphia refinery.

Savage said he doubted that the refinery could be operated safely with fewer workers. "This is about the safety and health of myself and my coworkers and the surrounding community," he said.

Sunoco spokesman Thomas Golembeski said the company, which employs 4,900 in the Philadelphia area, including 700 in convenience stores, was committed to negotiating in good faith.

"The safety of our employees, contractors and neighbors continues to be our main focus," Golembeski said.

Job cuts are also on the table at Sunoco's refinery in Marcus Hook, said Tim Kolodi, president of United Steelworkers Local 10-901, which represents more than 550 workers in Marcus Hook. The union contract there also expires March 1.

Kolodi said possible cuts, related to shutting down parts of the plant, included 60 of 270 operators and 30 of 150 mechanics. Pay cuts have also been proposed for certain employees, Kolodi said.

At Sunoco's refinery in Toledo, Ohio, the union contract expired Sunday. Talks were continuing Wednesday.

Sunoco's chief executive officer, Lynn Elsenhans, said at a December meeting with analysts that the company had wide-ranging cost-savings opportunities: in corporate overhead; in operations and maintenance in refineries and chemical plants; and in the purchasing of supplies, utilities and services.

The savings are "not just in people costs, but there are people costs," she said. At the corporate level, she said, there would be lifestyle changes.

"Things like the corporate jets, they are going to go," she said in December.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

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