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‘We’re not going’: Unifor declines Co-op Refinery’s invitation to return to table

Unifor Local 594 – the union representing about 800 workers – declined Co-op Refinery Complex’s invitation on Wednesday to head back to the bargaining table.
Unifor Local 594 – the union representing about 800 workers – declined Co-op Refinery Complex’s invitation on Wednesday to head back to the bargaining table. Jonathan Guignard / Global News

No progress has been made in negotiations between the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) and its employees, with about 24 hours to go before striking.

The refinery reached out to Unifor Local 594 — the union representing about 800 workers — on Wednesday, with an invitation back to the table.

Unifor didn’t accept the invite.

“[Employees] are ready for a deal, a fair deal, and the company is not willing to do that,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 president.

READ MORE: Regina Co-op Refinery will lock out employees if necessary

“The members spoke loud and clear the other night and they don’t want us talking about concessions, and until there is a deal on the table with no concessions in choice and protection, we’re not going there.”

CRC was given a 48-hour strike notice from Unifor at about 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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“When I was given this strike notice, it was a disappointment — [knowing] a path to a deal was going to impact the employee’s families both hourly and management,” said Gilbert Le Dressay, Federated Co-operatives Limited’s Refinery Operations vice-president.

“We never left the table — we need to get back to the table.”

CRC locked out their employees as of 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

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

The dispute hinges over choice and protection on pension plans. CRC is proposing employees to move to a defined contribution pension plan.

“If they were to go to the defined contribution plan, they have to contribute four [per cent],” Le Dressay said.

The other option would see workers contribute 11 per cent to the current defined benefit plan.

Right now, their defined benefit plan is funded purely by the employer which they would like to keep as an option in their next bargaining agreement — for those already locked into a plan.

Workers voted 97.3 per cent in favour of strike action. Mediation broke down on Nov. 12.