Aruban oil workers strike for new contracts, 2006

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Time Period:  
November 28,
December 4,
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
San Nicolas
Location Description: 
Valero Refinery
To come to an agreement with Valero for a new three to four-year contract for better wages, benefits, and vacation days.

In 2004, Valero, the largest independent oil refiner in the United States, bought a refinery plant on the coast of Aruba. The workers of the refinery were a part of the Independent Oil Workers Union of Aruba. In September 2006, they signed an agreement to become members of the United Steelworkers International Union. At this time, Jay Jeffries, the lead negotiator from the United Steel Workers, met with Ray Buckley, vice president and general manager of the refinery, to discuss a new contract for the refinery workers.

Although Union officials and Valero worked on a new agreement from September on, they failed to finalize a contract. On Tuesday November 28, half of the workforce, about 385 workers, went on strike and asked for higher pay and more benefits. Since the non-unionized workers did not participate in the strike, the refinery maintained operation at normal pace while some of the workers went on strike.

On Wednesday November 29, 15% of the workers (about 50 workers) returned to work. Despite this partial capitulation, the strike remained strong. Valero executives argued that union workers had no right to strike because the company gave its workers very competitive wages and benefit packages compared to other jobs on the island. Their previous contract included a 47% increase in salary and benefits over their five-year contract, as well as a 12% boost in salary and benefits the first year of working for Valero.

Valero attempted to convince employees that their contracts were fair. They reminded workers that they no longer had to pay three percent of their income to their pension plan, as Valero covered those costs. Valero also invested $360 million to make the refinery safer, more reliable and more environmentally friendly for its workers. However, workers insisted on a three to four-year contract instead of a five-year contract, better wages, and more vacation days. Employees asked for vacation days that were in accord with the island lifestyle, but Valero wanted to give them the same vacation time that they gave to workers in the United States.

On December 4, 2006, union workers ended the strike by signing a five-year contract with Valero. Jerry Rasmijn, a mediator from the Aruban government, helped both Buckley and Jeffries come to an agreement for the workers and the company. The package included significant wage and shift differential increases, improvements to their pension plans, and enhancements to insurance programs. 95% of the employees accepted the agreement and planned to return to work the next day on December 5.

Research Notes
- "Aruba Refinery Normal Despite Strike." Rep. no. 229. Vol. 84. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

- "Aruba Refinery Operating at Normal Rates Despite Strike." Rep. no. 231. Vol. 84. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

- Kelber, Harry. "The World of Labor." The Labor Educator. 2 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.

- Saville, Kevin. "Valero, Union in Deal at Aruba Refinery, Ending Strike." Rep. no. 233. Vol. 84. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

- "Refinery Workers Strike Over Pay." Miami Herald 30 Nov. 2006. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.

- "Valero, Aruba Union Reach New Labor Agreement, End Strike." San Antonio Business Journal. 5 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.

- Vaughan, Vicki. "Valero Hit By a Strike at Its Refinery in Aruba." San Antonio Express-News. 30 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.

- "Workers Strike at Valero Aruba Refinery." Reuters. 29 Nov. 2006. Web. 25 Feb. 2011. <>.

Additional Notes: 
Edited by Max Rennebohm (10/06/2011)
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nicole Vanchieri, 26/02/2011