Exxon refinery workers delay decision on scheduling contract offer vote -union official

By Erwin Seba

BEAUMONT, Texas, July 22 (Reuters) - Workers at an Exxon Mobil Texas refinery on Thursday put off considering a vote on the company's contract proposal, a union official said, as a lockout neared its fourth month.

About 650 United Steelworkers union (USW) members were locked out of Exxon's Beaumont, Texas, refinery and lubricant oil plant on May 1 after a prior contract covering the 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) facility expired.

The USW has said Exxon's proposal would require its members to give up longstanding seniority rights and create separate contracts for refinery and lubricant plant workers.

Exxon has been operating the 2,700-acre (11-sq km) complex with managers and replacement workers. The facility makes gasoline and Mobil 1 motor oil.

It has pressed union leaders to put its proposal before members, saying contact terms would give it the flexibility to be profitable in low-margin environments.

"We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union until an agreement is reached," said Exxon spokesperson Julie King.

The company said earlier this week there were no new negotiating sessions planned.

More than three-quarters of the about 350 members at a meeting on Thursday decided against scheduling a vote on the offer for at least two weeks, said people familiar with the matter.

"This gives Exxon two more weeks to come up with a better proposal," said a union member following the meeting.

Hoot Landry, a USW international representative, said the decision to delay a vote reflects the lack of progress in negotiations. (Reporting by Erwin Seba in Beaumont, Texas Editing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)

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