KENAI (AP) -- Organizers say they have enough signatures for a vote on whether workers building BP's experimental gas-to-liquids plant in Nikiski will be represented by unions.
Vince Beltrami of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is also president of the Western Alaska Building and Construction Trades Council. He said the council has petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a unionization vote.
He would not say how many workers at contractor Austin Industrial had signed collective bargaining cards, but said it was more than the 30 percent required for an election to be held.
Joe McKee, an Austin Industrial vice president, said the labor board notified Austin of the petition this week. Houston-based Austin is an employee-owned, non-union company, he said.
''We're a merit-shop company,'' he said. ''We don't ask people if they're union or not union when we hire. We hire people based on their qualifications.''
Beltrami said the petition covers all of Austin's Nikiski crafts workers, excluding supervisors, security and office workers. That's about 90 people, he said.
Norm Hayashi of the National Labor Relations Board in Anchorage said the board will look at the records and union cards.
''We look for an appropriate unit, and if it's appropriate and they have a proper showing of interest, then we'll hold an election,'' he said.
Beltrami said that if Austin workers vote to unionize, the council will decide how to approach collective bargaining.
''The unions that have the biggest presence probably will handle the bargaining,'' he said.
Construction on the $86 million gas-to-liquids plant, meant to test BP's technology for turning natural gas into high-quality synthetic crude oil, began last winter. Austin is doing the heavy construction, with subcontractor Udelhoven Oilfield System Services installing instrumentation. The plant is to open next year.
If the technology works in Nikiski, BP managers say they'll consider building production-scale plants on the North Slope and elsewhere.
Beltrami said the effort to unionize Austin sprang from a bid to unionize Peak Oilfield Services.
''Our guys on the road waving signs for Peak got interest from the Austin guys,'' he said.
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