Feb. 28, 2003 – Hovensa and the United Steelworkers of America Local 8526 signed a four-year contract on Thursday covering about 450 operations and maintenance employees, the refinery announced in a release issued Friday.
The old contract expires at midnight Friday.
Rene L. Sagebien, Hovensa president and chief operating officer, said that both parties bargained hard but through compromise, were able to reach an agreement. He commended union negotiator Frederick Joseph and refinery negotiator James D. Chamberlain for their efforts.
Sagebien said the agreement reflects the company's financial setbacks resulting from a sharp decline in the national economy since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the ongoing strike of oil workers in Venezuela. He said the pact also takes into consideration Hovensa's need to invest about $500 million to produce low sulfur-content gasoline and diesel fuel to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations taking effect in 2004.
Under the agreement the refinery will establish a shop mechanics apprentice program to train local residents in maintenance skills. The apprentices, who will participate in the company's health insurance and pension programs, will fill vacancies that develop through attrition in Hovensa's mechanical shops.
The program will provide an opportunity for high school graduates to further their education and training and "avoids the need to bring people from the outside if they're not available locally," said Alex Moorhead, Hovensa vice president for governmental affairs and community relations.
Among the new agreement's provisions:
– Employees will get a 10 percent wage increase over three years starting next year. For example, wages for helpers will go to $19.61 an hour from $17.78. DCS operators, which is Hovensa's best-paying job covered by this union agreement, will receive an increase to $26.47 per hour from $23.99.
– Employees with 10 or more years of service will get an additional five days of annual paid sick leave, for a total of 20.
– Employees will receive a base $150 bonus each January if they have had perfect attendance or had no on-the-job injuries the previous year. The size of the bonus will increase if an employee has both perfect attendance and no injuries. Moorhead said the more consecutive years with perfect attendance and no on-the-job injuries, the bigger the bonus.

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