REGINA, Sask. – The ongoing labor dispute between union members and the Regina Co-op Refinery has led to picketers said to now be blocking cardlock customers and fuel trucks from accessing Federated Co-operatives Ltd.’s (FCL) fuel distribution terminal near Carseland, Alta.
Unifor union members are reported to have set up fencing around the fuel terminal, which was in place as of this morning.
Union members have also been accused of illegally vandalizing and blocking trucks from entering and exiting the refinery, breaking a court order which stated picketers were only permitted to hold up trucks for up to five minutes with or without permission.
“We respect the union’s right to picket, share information and disrupt our normal course of business within the bounds set by the courts,” said Vic Huard, FCL’s executive vice-president of customer experience and stakeholder engagement. “But Unifor’s use of blockades and disregard for the rule of law go beyond peaceful picketing.
“We believe that Unifor does not understand the role that the energy sector plays in driving our economy and sustaining vibrant communities across Western Canada. We also do not believe that Toronto-based Unifor’s aggressive and illegal tactics align with western Canadians’ values.”
Unifor claims its attempts to return to the bargaining table with FCL has been met with opposition.
“We informed the employer that we were prepared to make a proposal to bring a resolution to the dispute, including modifying our position on the two contentious pension demands the employer said were impeding talks and they still refuse to meet us at the bargaining table,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president at a news conference in Regina Jan. 23. “It’s becoming abundantly clear that when FCL locked out Local 594 members on Dec. 5, they had no intention of ever trying to negotiate a fair settlement.”
Unifor also claims that several of its members have been “shoved and pushed,” with one member being “struck by a truck.”
“Today, we are asking Saskatchewan labor minister and the premier to intervene and appoint a mediator and help us end this 49-day dispute that is escalating by the minute,” said Dias. “The only way to end this dispute is to return to the bargaining table and Federated Co-operatives Ltd. knows this.”
Ongoing since Dec. 5, the dispute has also spurred reaction from the Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA).
“Trucking companies and their drivers do not make money if the wheels are not turning. These are private companies and STA members that haul for Co-op and locking them down is having a negative impact,” said STA executive president Susan Ewart. “There are rules about how long drivers can be on duty. As they sit on the side of the road, the hours in which they can earn an income tick away. There is no wiggle room here, once they are out of time, they are out of time and done for the day.”
With 26 independent fleets hauling products for the refinery, the STA has urged everyone to respect all workers, saying the trucking industry plays a critical role in the economy and drivers are worthy of respect.