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Workers at Tesoro Corp.'s Salt Lake City refinery have rejected a contract offer from the company but say they plan to continue bargaining in hopes of reaching a more amicable agreement.

Union members at three other Tesoro refineries also have turned thumbs down on the company's latest contract offer that seeks to set the terms and conditions that local union members would work under for the next several years.

"Our members overwhelmingly rejected Tesoro's contract offer," Steve Grosso, spokesman for the United Steelworkers of America Local 286 that represents about 150 workers at the Tesoro refinery in Utah, said Monday. "Hopefully, we'll be able to sit down and talk with them again and help them change their minds."

Workers are opposed to provisions in Tesoro's local contract offer that would allow the company to "unilaterally" alter retirement, health care and other benefits, Gross said. "Our members voted and told them that just isn't acceptable."

The union's national negotiating team has been bargaining with Royal Dutch Shell on an industrywide labor agreement and is said to have reached an accord that includes pay increases of 2.5 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the second and third years.

However, individual union locals also must decide whether to accept or reject contract offers that cover working conditions at the plants where they labor.

And in Salt Lake City and three other Tesoro refineries in California, Washington and Hawaii, it is those local contracts that have proved to be the sticking point for workers. Workers at a Tesoro refinery in North Dakota were expected to vote in their local contract Monday night.

"We have no issues with the national offer," Grosso said. "It is just here on the local level where we see problems."

Steelworkers at the HollyFrontier refinery in Woods Cross, who are represented by USW Local 12-578, recently voted to accept both the national and local contracts, said spokeswoman Julie Holzer. "They [HollyFrontier] followed the national agreement, and our members have ratified it. Everyone is happy."

Labor contracts at the nearby Chevron and Flying J refineries run until April.

Tesoro spokeswoman Tina Barbee said the company intends to continue negotiating with the local union and "we look forward to successful ratification of all agreements." However, she said should a deal not be reached, the company was prepared to activate its contingency plans "which are considered confidential."

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