With PES refinery furloughing workers on Friday, plant's safe closure still a concern

Kim Glovas
August 19, 2019 - 6:47 pm
Philadelphia Energy Solutions

Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio, file

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — About 500 Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery workers are wondering what will happen to them when the plant officially closes Friday. PES is working to close the plant, but wants to do it without union help. 

The PES refinery closed in June after explosions and a massive fire damaged one of 30 units, then the company announced bankruptcy.

Eight state and local lawmakers gathered at United Steelworkers Local 10-1 Monday in the Northeast before more than 100 workers to call for a safe, secure closure of the refinery and job security for workers. 

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick says PES needs to do this the right way. 

"If they withdraw in a certain way, it could eliminate any potential use of a new buyer from coming in and reconstituting operations. If they do it in the right way through appropriate idleness, it's referred to, then it can be preserved for another company to come in," Fitzpatrick said. 

"I've been made aware of one serious buyer. They'll have to make their own, they'll have to stick their head out of the foxhole on their own," said Ryan O'Callaghan, president of Local 10-1.

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He also says effects bargaining is going on now to determine what happens to workers. The problem, O'Callaghan says, is PES wants to get rid of the union and bring in it's own people to close the units.

"If there is no one there to watch them, you know management without constraints means management has no constraints, so there needs to be people in there to make sure it's done right," O'Callaghan added. 

O'Callaghan explains even though the plant is officially closing, it will take months for the units to be safely made inoperable. And he says PES doesn't want the union involved in the shutdown, which could result in major safety questions. 

"PES, we're all watching. You need to do it the right way. The people in this room, in this region, in Philadelphia deserve it," said Jim Snell of Steamfitters Local 420. 

Eighty union workers were laid off last week.