By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp and the United Steelworkers union (USW) have swapped proposals as they work toward possibly ending a nearly 10-month lockout by the company of Beaumont, Texas, refinery workers, Exxon said on Thursday.

The company did not offer details about either offer made at a meeting on Wednesday. It did say it rejected the proposal from USW local 13-243 in Beaumont during the meeting, which was the 55th between the two sides “and provided a new counter offer which included two, union-requested changes.”

A spokesperson for the USW was not immediately available on Thursday to comment.

Both sides are waiting for the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decide on charges filed by the USW that Exxon is using the lockout, which began on May 1, to force the removal of the union from the 369,024 barrel-per-day refinery and an adjoining lubricating oil plant.

On Dec. 29, the NLRB impounded ballots cast between November and December by over 600 USW members in a vote on the union’s removal.

Exxon has said the lockout will end when either a contract that meets its goals is accepted or the union is removed. The company has said its contract proposals would enable it to be competitive in even low-margin environments.

USW 13-243 members rejected Exxon’s offer in October because it would remove a long-standing, key provision that allows workers a say over job assignments and would split the refinery workers from lubrication plant employees.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by David Gregorio)