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UPDATE 1-Exxon issues lockout notice to Beaumont, Texas, refinery workers

(Adds USW official statement, details on Beaumont negotiations, background on previous refinery negotiation.)

HOUSTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp told union negotiators on Friday hourly workers will be locked out of the company’s Beaumont, Texas, refinery on May 1 if there is no agreement on a new contract, the company said.

“To ensure our facilities continue to operate safely, Exxon Mobil let the United Steelworkers representatives know today that we plan to call a lockout for May 1,” Exxon spokeswoman Julie King said.

In an email message, Local 13-243 President Darrell Kyle said the union leadership would make a statement at a later date.

Neither Exxon nor the USW was willing to discuss specific proposals made across the bargaining table, but both said they were prepared to continue negotiations.

Exxon and the USW Local 13-243, which represents about 600 workers at the 369,024 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery, have been negotiating since before the six-year contract expired on Feb. 1, said sources familiar with the negotiations.

The two sides are in a labor peace period, which expires on April 30, required in the old contract during which a strike or lockout may not be called, the sources said.

The six-year contract was agreed to in 2015 because the Beaumont refinery was beginning an expansion project that will add a 250,000-bpd crude distillation unit (CDU), boosting the refinery’s capacity to 619,000 bpd.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the completion date of the expansion has slipped to 2023.

In negotiations last year with workers at the company’s Baytown, Texas, refinery and chemical plant, Exxon’s wage proposals were below thresholds approved by the Steelworkers in 2019.

In late May 2020, Baytown workers agreed to a 2.5% pay increase in the first year, 1% below the threshold, and 3% pay increase for the second year, a half-percent under the threshold. (Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Will Dunham and Daniel Wallis)

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