Refinery news: Minnesota Northern Tier workers may strike Dec. 31 on wages, safety issues: Teamsters

New York (Platts)--27 Dec 2013 1204 pm EST/1704 GMT

Minnesota's Northern Tier refinery is facing a potential strike that could shut its refinery in Saint Paul Park, Minnesota, as soon as December 31, according to Teamsters Local 120, which represents about 200 workers at the plant. In a conference call with reporters and analysts on Friday, Teamster union representative Chris Riley said that the union is "committed" to a fair contract, with the membership seeking only "modest enhancements" to the contract which expires on December 31.

At issue are safety issues due to management's proposed cuts in refinery operator job coverage and job bidding which would remove many of the experienced workers as well as some wage cuts up to 40%, said Riley.

Riley said that management is looking to rewrite the contract. The two sides, which have met more than 13 times since November 27, will also meet again Friday, December 30 and December 31.

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A spokesman for Western Refining, which owns 37.8 % of the plant, was not immediately available for comment.

"Management's decision to drive experienced workers off the job and gut hard-fought standards in our industry puts the lives of our members and our neighbors at risk," said Joe Riley, in a statement issued by the Teamsters Thursday. Joe Riley is no relation to Chris Riley.

According to the Teamsters, Northern Tier's refining segment represents about 72% of the company's revenue. The company also owns or operates more than 200 SuperAmerica retail outlets in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin and supplies its service stations. These businesses would also be impacted by a work stoppage, the statement said.

In November 2013, Western Refining paid $775 million for the 37.8% stake in Northern Tier's partner units, taking ownership if Northern Tier's general partner.

Northern Tier's sole refinery is the plant in St. Paul Park, which has pipeline access to cost-advantaged Bakken and Canadian crudes. The company also has stakes in pipelines, terminals, storage, rail facilities and some retail operations.

The refinery, located just outside of Minneapolis, is the smaller of two in the region, and along with Flint Hills' larger 267,000 b/d refinery supplies gasoline and diesel. Because of its size, the Northern Tier plant often serves as a "swing supplier" of products to the region, sources said.

Refinery: St. Paul Park, Minnesota Owner: Northern Tier Energy Overall capacity (b/d): 89,500

--Janet McGurty,
--Edited by Katharine Fraser,

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