Saying, "We just come to work here, we do not come to die," members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers (PACE) International Union began mobilizing today to press for increased benefits for oil and gas workers killed or severely injured on the job.
"The petrochemical sector is the most dangerous and hazardous industry in the world today, both in terms of worker safety and the overall health of the community," said PACE President Boyd Young. "The scorecard of industrial accidents, explosions, fires and even multiple deaths occurring in our plants is thick with ugly instances year after year."
Feeling that workers'' compensation benefits and the current benefits offered in its contract are inadequate to meet the needs of severely injured employees or the families of workers killed on the job, the union proposes adding the following safety and health items to its National Oil Bargaining Program:
- Increase to $1 million the benefits payable to the survivors of a worker whose death resulted from an occupational injury.
- Provide workers who suffer total and permanent disability while at the same time suffering from second or third degree burns covering an excess of 40 percent of the worker''s body, as well as those workers injured and suffering permanent and/or total disability with permanent disfigurement, with $100,000 for each year from the date of the employee''s injury until that employee attains the age of 65. In addition, the employee would continue to receive full benefits coverage for that extended period of time.
Currently, workers killed on the job receive a death benefit of $250,000. "This is woefully inadequate," said PACE Administrative Vice President Jim Pannell, who leads the national oil bargaining talks. "A death benefit increase to $1 million can be achieved by the industry with just pennies to the insurable cost."
Statewide workers'' compensation plans do not address the mental and physical trauma and stress that result when workers are severely burned and disfigured from workplace accidents, which is why the union is pressing for additional compensation for injured workers.
"The $100,000 per year in benefits will allow workers who have been victimized by these tragedies the opportunity to live out their lives in dignity," said Pannell.
The National Oil Bargaining Agreement expires Feb. 1, 2002 at 12:01 a.m., and covers 30,000 workers in the oil and gas sector. Pattern bargaining marks the negotiation process.
Once representatives for PACE International Union and the lead company, Shell Alliance, reach an agreement, it becomes the pattern contract that is taken to local and national negotiating tables at Shell and other companies covered under the national oil bargaining agreement. Wages, benefits and working conditions in all national oil bargaining agreements cannot go below what is set in the pattern contract.
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])