Despite USW Strike, Shell Moving to 'Business As Normal'

As the United Steelworkers (USW) union's U.S. refinery strike entered Week 5 without an agreement, an executive with lead negotiator Shell on Monday informed staff that the company's refineries are "transitioning from contingency plans to business as normal operations." Read on for the text of a letter to staff from Aamir Farid, Shell's manufacturing vice president for the Americas.

When our contract with the USW expired and employees were called out on strike this past February 1, we activated our contingency plan for Deer Park and recently activated the plan for the Norco Chemical Plant.

Similar contingency plans have been in place for all USW represented sites for well over 12 months. These plans have been carefully developed and tested to assure that we are able to run our facilities safely and maintain our commitments to our neighbors and customers.  The strength of the plans and our employees has been demonstrated at both Deer Park and Norco.

We are disappointed that the USW International Union seems unwilling to achieve a timely and reasonable agreement; but, we are also determined to continue running our business – this is in the best interest of our employees, our customers, the sites and the communities in which we operate. As the USW strike goes into its fifth week at Deer Park and second week at Norco Chemical, I want to provide an update on what to expect as we shift our focus from contingency to business continuity.

When USW represented workers were directed by the union to stop work at Deer Park on February 1, we began the handover of the facility to Shell trained operators. Following procedures, we ensured everything was operating in accordance to people and process safety protocols.

Once the handover was completed, we turned our focus to bringing in and training additional staff.  These are qualified Shell employees, all of whom receive training prior to entering the rotation. The conclusion of this process is focused on returning our operations to a full rotation.

At Deer Park, that goal will be achieved mid-summer. By then, we expect to have trained and deployed all required relief employees to return to full rotation.  We recognize and appreciate the contribution of those team members running our assets during this time —a key step in our business continuity plans is to have team members return to their normal duties.

The steps we have implemented as part of our contingency and business continuity plans have allowed us to maintain safe and reliable operations at our manufacturing sites, deliver product to our customers, grow our business and continue to provide good jobs for our employees.

We’ll keep moving forward. We are committed to you, as well as to our communities and customers. We are unwavering in those commitments and they remain unchanged. They will guide each and every decision and action as we move forward—together, as one team.

For more on Shell's perspective on its negotiations with the USW, visit Shell's website.

Also on Monday, Tesoro Corp.'s vice president of operations sent a letter to employees in which he made several observations about topics ranging from the performance of Tesoro's contingency staff to the news media's perceptions of refinery safety. Visit Tesoro's website to read that letter.