HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp <XOM.N> used economic uncertainty tied to the coronavirus pandemic to urge workers at its lubricants and packaging plant in Paulsboro, New Jersey, to vote for a proposed contract, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Workers at the plant on Wednesday rejected the contract in a 62-11 vote, however, said the two sources.
The workers are represented by the Independent Oil Workers union (IOW) in Paulsboro. Officials at the IOW office did not reply to a phone message.
The sources said the proposal would have put Exxon, not the union, in charge of choosing safety officers and overturned gains won by the union in past arbitration with the company.
“They used our fears to try to decimate this contract,” one of the sources said.
Exxon Mobil spokesman Todd Spitler said the claims were not justified.
“We reject these unwarranted claims,” Spitler said. “One only has to look at current market conditions to realize that this is simply not true.”
Spitler said Exxon’s goal is to continue to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement with the IOW.
“Exxon Mobil’s primary focus remains the safety and health of our workforce and to do our part to manage the impact of the novel coronavirus in the community,” he said.
An official with the United Steelworkers union (USW) at Exxon’s Baytown, Texas, refinery said last Friday that the company was using economic uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic to push workers to accept a new contract.
Like most employees in petrochemical manufacturing, workers at the Paulsboro plant cannot do their jobs from home and must work in shared production areas.
The Paulsboro plant produces and packages lubricants.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Tom Hogue)