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BP Whiting endures union strike, failing equipment

Plenty has gone wrong for the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, recently; on top of a weeks-long, 1,100-worker strike, Northwestern Indiana (NWI) Times reports technical issues as well. One of the facility’s catalytic units, or cat cracker—equipment that boils crude oil into usable fuel—had to be shut down last week after its pump stopped working.

Amidst the strike and mechanical malfunctions, BP is still uncertain how long the cat cracker will be out of order, but plans to meet with the local United Steelworkers union chapter on Friday. United Steelworkers employed at the refinery have been on strike since Feb. 8, calling for safer conditions and more reasonable schedules.

In a previous NWI Times article, refinery operator Ralph Ford described the exhausting schedules the union is picketing:

We’re trying to get meaningful fatigue standards … They try to push you to a breaking point, in terms of number of days worked, number of hours worked. We’ve had guys locked in there for 24-hour days, 18-hour days, 20-hour days without a break. These are the things we want addressed at the bargaining table. We want staffing levels commensurate with the amount of work that’s going on in there.

BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company intends to broker a three-year contract with the union that would improve safety conditions, preserve competitiveness and allocate traditional bargaining rights to the union:

Contrary to statements by the union, our goal is not to break the union or prolong the strike … We did not want or call for this strike. We feel our proposals are fair and in line with what many of our competitors already have in their agreements with the USW at other refining sites. We are hopeful a fair contract will be reached soon and we remain available to meet with the union with this goal in mind.

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