For generations, the Lima Refinery routinely relied on Local Union workers for its annual maintenance turnaround — repairing and replacing worn out parts, pumps and equipment to ensure the plant continues production and avoids costly shutdowns.
In operation for over 135 years, the Ohio plant was acquired by Canadian-based Cenovus Energy in January. The new owners told building trades leaders they planned to bring in 3,000 out-of-town non-union workers to do the turnaround — an unprecedented move considering multiple generations of union families in Lima have consistently performed the turnaround work.
The move threatens 3,000 good paying union jobs in Lima, a small Ohio community, who relies on the plant for those jobs.
Rick Perdue, President of the Lima Building and Construction Trades Council, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the safety issues posed by the Cenovus decision and what these jobs mean to the Lima community.
A company determined to hire non-union
Perdue said the Lima Building and Construction Trades Council was taken aback when the company revealed its plans to bring in 3,000 non-union workers. The community was caught off guard and it was a big shock, he said.
While the Local Unions are currently in negotiations, Cenovus leaders have not changed their minds, said Perdue. This seems to be the path the company is determined to go down. Union members are fervently opposed to the move because they do not want to see out-of-state workers taking the jobs. This is an issue of community, he added.
Non-union workers pose safety risk
In addition to the question of community, there is also an issue of safety, Perdue pointed out. Bringing in 3,000 workers from out-of-state is hard to do in a short amount of time, he said. Naturally, not all of these workers will be adequately trained, compared to their local union counterparts.
Safety is a serious consideration. Perdue asked — if a worker is on the scaffold one day and welding the next, will he be certified to do both? If the worker was represented by a union, then the answer would likely be yes.
One union has been providing the company tours of its apprenticeship facility so it has a better idea of the specialized training union tradesmen and tradeswomen bring to the job site, Perdue said.
Union workers received support from several state and local politicians, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles), Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Lima Mayor David Berger.
While the company maintains it will only hire specialists in its search for non-union, out-of-town laborers, the real specialists are the men and women who have done turnaround at the plant for generations, he said.