HOUSTON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc said on Thursday it looks forward to handling industry negotiations on a national contract covering 30,000 U.S. refinery and chemical plant workers represented by the United Steelworkers union (USW).
The talks begin formally in January and Shell, which has represented its peers since 1997, is lead negotiator on behalf of companies including BP, Chevron Corp, Exxon Mobil Corp and others.
The refining industry this year has enjoyed strong profits, near-full utilization rates and record product exports. In the June quarter, the margin on turning crude to gasoline, diesel and other products was the highest since 2015.
"Our goal in the bargaining process will be to reach an agreement with the USW which ensures that our employees continue to receive competitive pay and benefits while keeping the industry competitive in the global marketplace," Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said in a statement on Thursday.
He declined to comment on the oil industry's positions in the talks.
Shell's statement was similar to that made by the head of the USW's oil bargaining program on Wednesday. The union is aiming for a three-year contract with wage increases of about 6 percent per year.
"Our goal is a mutually beneficial agreement for our members and the companies they work for," Kim Nibarger, chairman of the union's national oil bargaining program, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Union members with four years' experience currently earn about $40 an hour, Nibarger said.
The current contract expires on Feb. 1. The one to be negotiated between Shell and United Steelworkers will set the pattern for contracts between local unions and refineries, chemical plants and pipeline operators. (Reporting by Erwin Seba Editing by Bill Trott)