May 3, 2003, 12:37AM

Union says Exxon Mobil stingy on contract offer


The day after Exxon Mobil reported a $7 billion quarterly profit, a union representing two groups of workers in Baytown called the company's offers miserly and threatened to strike.

This week the clerical employees at Exxon Mobil's Baytown refinery and chemical plants protested a company proposal that doesn't include a raise.

Chemical operators at Exxon Mobil's plant in Baytown notified the company Friday that they intend to strike in 60 days unless they get better raises and shift differentials.

About 50 employees marched in front of Exxon Mobil's downtown Houston office Friday morning, upset that only a day earlier the company had announced it tripled its first-quarter profits and gave big raises to top executives.

The contracts expired last week. Union members are working under the old contract until new ones can be reached. They have asked for federal mediation.

Exxon Mobil said the offers are in line with industry standards.

"We believe we have offered a fair and competitive final offer to our folks, and we urge them to take a close look at it," said Brian Dunphy, Exxon Mobil's Baytown-area public affairs manager.

The 86 clerical employees who work at the complex said the company offered them a four-year contract but refuses to promise them a raise except a one-time $1,000 bonus for the first year, said Kenny Kohlmeyer, president of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union Local 4-2001 in Baytown.

But the bonus isn't included in the employees' base pay and therefore isn't included when pensions are calculated.

The longer people have worked there and the closer they get to retirement, the more they're affected, said Melanie Lombard, a 20-year clerical employee who earns $18.50 an hour.

And when raises come, they're very infrequent, according to Tammy Corley, a 23-year clerical employee, who estimated that the workers had annual raises only four times in the past decade.

Dunphy said Exxon Mobil surveyed 50 petrochemical companies, including many in the Houston Ship Channel area, and found its salaries are competitive.

But Sheyrl Webster, clerical vice president with the PACE Local 4-2001 in Baytown and a clerical employee at Exxon Mobil, said that based on her calculations from the data the company gave her, secretaries at the Baytown plant are making 7 percent less than the rest of the industry.

The 300 chemical operators are upset that the company offered them a lower wage package than what Exxon Mobil employees at other plants are paid.

The 732 refinery workers accepted a similar contract two weeks ago, but the chemical operators vowed to fight, Kohlmeyer said. The employees merged with PACE two years ago after belonging to an independent union for 38 years.

Refinery employees were intimidated, Kohlmeyer said, because company officials were talking about layoffs and lockouts in case the contract wasn't approved.

There was no intimidation, Dunphy said. The company and union have had a long and successful history of working together, he said.

Other Exxon Mobil employees received an 89 cent-an-hour raise this year, which works out to a 3.5 percent hike based on a $25.34 top rate of pay, Kohlmeyer said. However, the Baytown plant employees were offered only 52 cents an hour, he said.

The wage offer for the other years (3.7 percent for 2004 and 4 percent for 2005) were identical to what other workers at other plants will receive.

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Rep. Marchant, this one's for you

Regarding state Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Carrollton, and his idea for the state to purchase "dead peasant" life insurance for retired public employees and then cash in on the policies when the retired employee dies: Perhaps Marchant should re-examine his commitment to the people of Texas. There is only one thing to say to Marchant and others who think this is a good idea: This is wrong. Jim Lefton, international representative, PACE International Union, Pasadena


 Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

  May 5, 2003, 7:33PM

Lawmaker backs off proposal to benefit state as retirees die


A proposal to cash in on the deaths of retired state employees through the purchase of life insurance that names the state as beneficiary has been abandoned by the Dallas-area legislator who introduced it.

State Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Carrollton, dropped the bill he introduced two weeks ago, according to Marchant legislative assistant Mark Shewmaker.

"He decided not to pursue it," said Shewmaker, who said he didn't want to explain further.

The bill would have allowed the state to sell bonds to raise money to buy "dead peasant" policies without the permission or knowledge of the retirees.

But critics of the bill said it would have been impossible for the state to make any money on insurance because the government couldn't get the tax breaks that made the insurance so attractive to companies like Wal-Mart and Dow Chemical.

And union leaders were vowing to stop the bill, considering such slogans as "We refuse to die," said Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of the Harris County AFL-CIO.

A hearing on the bill had been scheduled for Monday but was canceled.


 Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

  May 15, 2003, 6:20AM

Dow Chemical, union restart talks on contract


Negotiators from Dow Chemical in Freeport and the International Union of Operating Engineers went back to the bargaining table Wednesday after union members rejected the company contract in a 583-to-287 vote.

Members of the union's Local 564 threatened on Tuesday to walk off the job at 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the current contract was scheduled to expire, if the members rejected the company's contract offer.

Instead, the company and union agreed to extend the contract 24 hours.

Representatives from both sides began meeting in Freeport early Wednesday afternoon and were expected to talk long into the night.

A mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service also joined the negotiations.

"Hopefully, we'll get a new contract that members can vote on," said Charlie Singletary, business manager of Local 564 in Lake Jackson.

Dow spokesman Jan Huisman said he was also hoping that an agreement would be reached.


 Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle