Crown, union set to end lockout

But pact requires vote of workers who rejected similar bid

January 04, 2001|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Crown Central Petroleum Corp. has reached a tentative agreement - the second in three months - with union workers at its oil refinery in Pasadena, Texas, potentially ending an almost five-year lockout.

Crown and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE) previously announced a tentative agreement Oct. 11, but the measure was rejected by local bargaining unit members a week later.

The latest agreement, announced yesterday, also is subject to a ratification vote by members of Local 4-227.

"We reached this stage once before a couple of months ago, so we're not going to get too excited," said J. Steven Wise, a spokesman for Baltimore-based Crown. "But, still, it's a positive development."

If the agreement is approved, PACE will cease all boycott activities, resolve all litigation with Crown and end the "corporate campaign" against the company that was initiated by PACE's predecessor, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union.

In addition, the agreement would put an end to the lockout at the Pasadena refinery, which began in February 1996.

Crown and PACE have also agreed to the terms governing the return to work of bargaining unit members once the agreement is ratified.

"Crown is very pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with PACE," Crown Chairman Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. said in a statement yesterday.

"We have worked hard to resolve this labor dispute so that we can focus our attention on present and future opportunities available to the company. We look forward to a renewed and profitable working relationship."

A spokesman for PACE did not return telephone calls yesterday.

About 250 employees initially were involved in the lockout. Many have since found jobs with other refineries or left the area. Only 117 voted on the contract proposal in October. Wise said he could not provide the current number of employees affected.

There is no correlation between the agreement and a proposed acquisition that would make Crown a private company, according to Wise.

In December, Crown agreed to sell the oil company to privately held Rosemore Inc., which is controlled by Crown Chairman Rosenberg and his family in a deal valued at $105 million. The issue is expected to be submitted for a vote in the first quarter, Wise said.

PACE is a member of Crown Shareholders for Fair Value, an organization that has opposed the privatization effort on grounds that Rosemore's offer of $10.50 per share was too low. Other members of the organization are the AFL-CIO and private shareholders.

Crown Central had posted losses in eight of the past 11 years, but surging fuel prices gave refineries a boost last year.

Crown's Class B shares, the most widely traded, closed unchanged yesterday at $9.81 per share.

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