Occupational Pay Structure in Petroleum Refineries

Monthly Labor Review, July 1986 | Go to article overview

Occupational Pay Structure in Petroleum Refineries


Occupational pay structure in petroleum refineries Hourly earnings of production workers in the Nation's petroleum refineries averaged $14.20 in June 1985, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics wage survey. Just over nine-tenths of the 51,203 workers covered by the survey earned between $12 and $16 an hour; about one-half had earnings within a $1 range--$14.50 to $15.50. The number of refineries paying single rates for individual occupations contributed substantially to this narrow spread, as did the relatively large proportion of skilled workers in the industry, the concentrations of employment in relatively few large companies, and the high degree of collective bargaining with a single union (the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, AFL-CIO).

Refinery workers averaged 23 percent more in June 1985 than in May 1981, when the last survey was conducted. This increase compares with a 22-percent rise in the wage and salary component of the Bureau's Employment Cost Index for all manufacturing industries between the second quarters of 1981 and 1985. The petroleum industry's wage change largely reflected increases granted to nearly seven-eighths of the workers under collective bargaining agreements. Provisions for automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), triggered primarily by specified changes in the BLS Consumer Price Index, applied to less than 5 percent of the work force.

Among the eight geographic regions studied in 1985, pay levels for six fell within 4 percent of the industry's nationwide average ($14.20 an hour). Averages were about 10 percent below this mark in the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia region and in the Texas Inland-North Louisiana-Arkansas region. Regionally, pay levels of production and related workers ranged from $12.65 in Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia to $14.62 in the East Coast region. Workers in the Texas-Louisiana-Gulf Coast region, where two-fifths of the industry's work force was concentrated, averaged $14.50 an hour.

Twenty-six occupations, accounting for nearly four-fifths of the production workers, were selected to represent the wage structure and activities of production and related workers in the industry. (See table 1.) Among these jobs, average hourly earnings ranged from $11.41 for laborers to $15.38 for chief operators of stills. Assistant operators, who help chief operators maintain stills, accounted for one-fifth of the industry's work force and averaged $14.45 an hour. Chief operators' helpers, who maintain required temperatures in furnaces of stills and pumpers, averaged $13.65 and $14.49 an hour, respectively.

Average hourly earnings of the nine journeyman maintenance trades studied were closely grouped--ranging from $14.07 for machinery mechanics to $14.82 for boilermakers. General mechanics, the most numerous of these workers, averaged $14.60 an hour. General mechanic includes skilled workers operating under maintenance craft consolidation plans (which combine two crafts or more into a single job), and mechanics working in small refineries where specialization in maintenance work is impractical. …

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