The refinery, just south of Belle Chasse, is closing down to become a storage facility. The union is meeting to determine what the employees get after the refinery is closed. This is close to the last report on this refinery.
Members of the United Steelworkers union at the soon-to-be-shuttered Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery in Plaquemines Parish will vote next week on a severance package as hundreds of employees prepare to lose their jobs early next year. The union vote comes just ahead of the Jan. 7 date Phillips 66 told the Louisiana Workforce Commission it will begin laying off 470 employees, amid plans to cease operating as a refinery and convert the site into an oil storage terminal. In addition to the direct employees, a further 400 contractors also will be let go because of the plant closure. The direct employees include hundreds of operators and their supervisors, as well as support staff in finance, human resources and a nurse practitioner, according to Phillips 66’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice, which the LWC published last week. Houston-based Phillips 66 said last month that it had abandoned plans to try and sell the refinery as a going concern after Hurricane Ida flooding made it uneconomic to repair. Instead, the company said it plans to convert infrastructure on the 2,400-acre site to boost its capacity to store oil. Currently, the site can hold 1.8 million barrels in its tanks.nola.com
400 plus released with only 50 openings in the system. That means most will have a hard time in the future.
Only about 30 employees will be required to run the oil storage terminal and it is still unclear how many USW members will be offered employment there or at Phillips 66 operations in other parts of the country, said David Delaneuville, a USW official for District 13 who has been negotiating the severance deal. The vast majority of employees will get their last paycheck in February, a month after their severance date, said Delaneuville, though some residual work is expected to continue for a few employees through August. Also, he said Phillips 66 officials have indicated they will try to place workers in some of the vacancies at their other plants if possible. Currently, Phillips 66 has about 50 job vacancies posted for its 10 U.S. refineries, including those located in Houston, Borger, and Sweeney in Texas; Bartlesville, Oklahoma; and several sites in California. Though the union vote is coming up, the precise terms of the Alliance Refinery severance package are still being worked out, said Tristan Babin, a spokesman for the refinery. “We are currently finalizing redeployment opportunities with our non-represented personnel and are still wrapping up negotiations with our union for the represented personnel on site,” Babin said. About half the refinery’s 500 direct employees are members of the USW. Severance for USW union members typically includes a payment based on length of service, with two weeks paid for every year worked, capped at about a year with a minimum of three months.
Pay is important but heath care ranks high. They have it now but will lose it. The community also loses their tax base.
The other main element up for negotiation is healthcare benefits, which can be very expensive for employees to continue on their own. The refinery is located about 10 miles downriver from Belle Chasse and community leaders said they’re bracing for the loss of the major, long-standing employer. The plant had been in operation since 1971 and had been an important provider of high paid jobs for many parish residents. Phillips 66 also has been a significant contributor to local taxes, paying $7.4 million in property taxes alone in the latest tax year. Its tax assessment will be the same for 2022, but then will drop significantly as the value of the tank terminal will be much lower than the refinery, resulting in a lower assessment. Bonnie Buras, a real estate agent in Belle Chasse, said there hadn’t been any immediate dampening of the local housing market. She said there is some hope that a proposed methanol plant can recoup at least some of the lost jobs. “Thank God we’ve never been through anything like this before, so we just don’t know yet what’s going to happen,” Buras said.
This is a case were any proposals to aid in job training would help but the representatives both state and federal will not vote for them.
Other potential job-creating projects nearby include the conversion of the PBF Refinery in Chalmette to renewable diesel production, which might add 20 jobs when completed at the end of next year. Also, the $1 billion Nola Oil Terminal project began construction this month, despite worries that the Alliance conversion might provide competition that would make it untenable. It is expected to provide up to 40 permanent jobs when completed.
Even with these possible 60 jobs, that is not much when 400 contractors and 400 workers are out of a job. We need to do more as they could well be the vanguard of oil workers laid off.