By George Avalos 03/12/2015
MARTINEZ — Shell Oil and the United Steelworkers have reached a tentative agreement on a national contract, a deal that eventually could push gasoline prices lower and pave the way to end a walkout at several fuel factories, including the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery in Martinez, union and industry analysts said Thursday.
The tentative deal was confirmed Thursday by Jim Payne, a spokesman for USW. Local 5, which represents about 425 unionized workers at the Golden Eagle Refinery.
“We are pleased that the USW. and Shell reached agreement on the pattern for the industry,” said Tina Barbee, a spokeswoman for Tesoro.
Bargaining involving Local 5 was under way on Thursday, although details weren’t available. Terms of the new tentative four-year contract weren’t immediately known.
The Tesoro refinery is shown Dec. 13, 2003. in Martinez. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
“Tesoro remains committed to direct, good faith discussions with USW. local representatives and we will work toward ratification of local agreements at our represented locations,” Barbee said.
The Tesoro refinery in Martinez has been idled since nearly the beginning of the walkout. It has 650 employees and can process 166,000 barrels of oil a day.
Tesoro had begun a planned maintenance at the Martinez plant prior to the start of the strike. Once the United Steel Workers included the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery in the strike, Tesoro decided to idle all of the units at the refinery and extend the maintenance efforts.
About 4,000 workers at nine plants, including seven refineries accounting for 10 percent of U.S. refining capacity, have been on strike since early February in California, Kentucky and Texas. The California refineries involved are the Tesoro plants in Martinez and Carson in Los Angeles County.
“Gasoline prices are set to go lower in the coming weeks,” said Allison Mac, a spokeswoman for GasBuddy.com, an online site that tracks the fuel markets.
Gasoline prices have been relatively stable over the past week, Mac said.
On Thursday, gasoline prices were at $3.40 a gallon in Santa Clara County, down from $3.41 a week ago; $3.38 in the East Bay, down from $3.40 a week ago; and $3.49 in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin region, unchanged from a week ago, according to GasBuddy.
“Since we see an end to the strike, it’s looking good for consumers,” Mac said.
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.