Workers at two BP plants in Midwest to join biggest strike at us refineries since 1980

Workers at two BP Plc plants in the Midwest are joining the biggest strike at refineries across the US since 1980 after suspension of negotiations on a new labour contract until next week.

Workers at BP's Whiting refinery in Indiana and the Toledo plant in Ohio that it co-owned with Husky Energy Inc notified management that they would join the strike at 11:59 pm today, Scott Dean a spokesman for BP, said in an e-mail yesterday.

The United Steelworkers representing 30,000 US oil workers, had suspended negotiations with Royal Dutch Shell Plc,  which is bargaining on behalf of employers, until next week.

The nine US plants on strike and the two refineries, between them account for about 13 per cent of US refining capacity. It comes as the first national strike by US oil workers since 1980, when stoppage of work extended to three months.

A full strike of USW members, employed at over 200 US refineries, fuel terminals, pipelines and chemical plants, would threaten to disrupt 64 per cent of US fuel output.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that a strike by US refinery workers appeared set to widen late Saturday night to 11 plants as walkouts had been scheduled at BP Plc refineries in Indiana and Ohio, a BP spokesman said last night, the sixth day of the strike.

The union has called for tighter policy to prevent workplace fatigue, which federal officials said were tied to refinery accidents. It is also demanding the assignment of work being given to non-union contractors to go to USW members.

Meanwhile, BP spokesman Scott Dean said the two refineries had been operating normally yesterday and the company had planned a safe transition between union workers and temporary replacement workers.

He said presently, both refineries were operating and the company would remain in communication with regulators and other ''officials as long as this strike continued."