Labor deal could soon restart Tesoro refinery

After nearly six weeks of strikes, workers at the Tesoro refinery in Martinez may soon be returning to work.

Negotiators from the national United Steelworkers union reached an agreement Thursday with a consortium of oil companies represented by Shell Oil, according to union and company representatives.

Locally, that means the end of the strike in Tesoro is likely near, said Tesoro spokeswoman Patricia Deutsche. Requests for comment from a USW Local 5 representative were not immediately returned.

Deutsche said:

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. … The strike is not completely over yet until they all have their say, but hopefully we can get them back to work quickly.”

Local 5 will still have to vote to accept the agreement and reach consensus on any specific issues that members and Tesoro management have been discussing since the strike started, Deutsche said.

The agreement accomplishes the major goals outlined by USW, including safety issues that encompass staffing, workload, maintenance and repair work, according to union officials.

USW International President Leo Gerard in a statement lauded the solidarity shown by members during the strike over the past several weeks:

“There was no way we could have won vast improvements in safety and staffing without it.”

Local 5 and Tesoro’s management team have met together over the past several days to hammer out the final details of the agreement, Deutsche said:

“It’s good news … We’re eager to get all of our employees back to work.”

The strike has had some unintended consequences for local recreational baseball and soccer teams. Deutsche said the refinery’s soccer fields are accessed through a gate used by contractors, which is being blocked by a picket line.

The refinery decided to close the two soccer fields rather than expose children and their families to the demonstrators, Deutsche said. Deutsche said the soccer players would normally start their season this weekend but they’ve already found a short-term field alternative.

Youth players on the Junior Optimist Baseball League had to scramble to find practice space when they were locked out of their regular playing fields at the Tesoro refinery at the start of the strike on Feb. 2.

The union has since reached an agreement with the management not to picket outside the fields, even though a representative from Local 5 said there were never any picketers there.