Industrywide acceptance of a recently negotiated two-year contract between oil workers and two major oil companies would end a three-month nationwide strike by 55,000 refinery workers, but at a high cost: an estimated wage hike of 10 percent or more annually for 1980 and 1981.
Gulf Oil Corporation and Cities Service Oil Company reached tentative settlements March 17 with negotiators for the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union. Union officials in Denver said they expected quick rank-and-file ratification of what they described as "good, solid contracts."
President Carter's new anti-inflation guideline policy calls for increases in a 7.5 to 9.5 percent range. Somewhat larger increases, to about 10.5 percent, are approved if union contracts do not provide for automatic cost-of-living adjustments on a regular basis. The oil industry has so far resisted formal links between pay and living costs.
Robert F. Goss, president of the oil union, said that, because of the high productivity rate in the industry, the terms "will not have any inflationary impact on the economy or result in higher prices for consumers."
Under the new contract running to Jan. 7, 1982, oil workers would get an average $1-an-hour increase in 1980, then $1.11 an hour (or 10.5 percent) in 1981, when the average wage will rise to $11.66 an hour. The terms are short of what workers demanded and struck for, but the union considers the terms, an "adequate settlement."
H. J. McClain, director of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers' big Gulf Coast district, said he expected the situation to be resolved this week. Mr. McClain said March 24 "is the day to keep an eye on. We'll either be all back to work by then, or the ones still out could settle down [to strike] for quite a while more."