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Mediation breakdown leaves Co-op Refinery workers feeling ‘frustrated’

About 800 unionized workers are employed by the Federated Co-operatives refinery in Regina.
About 800 unionized workers are employed by the Federated Co-operatives refinery in Regina. File / Global News

Nearly 800 workers at the Co-op Refinery remain without a deal following a mediation breakdown over their pension security.

Despite mandatory mediation being in place, members of Unifor Local 594 say no progress has been made with their employer.

“We are disappointed Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) continues to come to the bargaining table demanding roll backs in our pensions and other concession, despite the fact that this employer continues to rake in billions of dollars in profits,” said Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor 594 in a statement.

READ MORE: Construction begins on work camp at Co-op Refinery, amid standstill

Bittman said members are not willing to go backwards.

“We are willing to make changes to the pension liabilities for the employer, but our members need choice and protection to ensure pension security for every worker. During this time of sustained record profits, anything less would be an unnecessary concession,” Bittman said.

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The employer is insisting members take concessions of over 17.5 per cent which would reduce their pensions said the union, calling it “unacceptable” and “disrespectful”.

“Offering either an inferior Defined Contribution plan while dismantling the Defined Benefit plan is not a choice, it is an attack on our members’ retirement security and will not be accepted under any circumstances,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the national president.

READ MORE: FCL reports record profit of $1.1B in 2018

In March of 2017, Vic Huard, the executive vice president of FCL, said that every single employee who is currently in the defined benefits plan will remain in that plan from now until they retire.

However, the union says the employer is reneging on that promise and dismissing their compromises which included making the switch in pension plans voluntary.

“We will not accept that an employer making $3 million a day, thinks our pension security is an unreasonable ask for our highly-skilled, experienced, and loyal workers who keep the refinery safe and profitable,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president.

The union has not taken a strike vote. They said they remain hopeful that the employer will come back to the table with a fair offer.