The Saskatchewan Trucking Association (STA) says its members have been held at the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) and that they have experienced harassment from picketing union members amid an ongoing labour dispute at the facility.
“Drivers are being detained within the facility for extended hours,” said STA director of communications Nicole Sinclair. “That’s keeping them away from their families. That’s making them choose between providing for their families and breaking federal and provincial regulations.”
Sinclair also said that during the first few days of the dispute there was “some verbal abuse directed towards truck drivers.”
“It’s obviously not great,” said Sinclair. “It’s not their dispute. They don’t work for Co-op. They don’t have a say over anything. They’re just trying to do their jobs.”
While the trucks and cargo servicing the facility may bear the Co-op logo, they are not employed by Federated Co-operatives Limited. There are 26 independent fleets that haul for the organization.
The owner of one carrier described the situation to Global News as “hostage-like” and said trucks were being contained in the facility for as long as 10 hours. Some carriers have resorted to switching out drivers.
“There are rules about how long drivers can be on duty. There is no wiggle room here, once they are out of time, they are out of time and done for the day,” STA executive director Susan Ewart said in a press release.
Sinclair said that when trucks aren’t moving, their owners aren’t making money.
“We’re talking days of salaries,” she said. “We’re getting reports from some of these drivers who are single parents having to arrange extra child-care, they’re not making it home to their families. Plus, they’re barely making any money for that day. The trucking companies aren’t making any money that day. It’s a lot of lost revenue all around.”
Members of Unifor Local 594 have been picketing since they were locked out of the CRC last Thursday afternoon.
The union and the company are in a dispute over pension security. The company paid 100 per cent of the contribution toward the employees’ pensions but now wants them paying in.
Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman said Wednesday morning the two parties currently have no scheduled plan to return to the bargaining table.
“We can’t weigh in on what’s going on as far as any of the action from either side. That’s really not our place,” said Sinclair. “We represent drivers and we want them to move those trucks so they can get paid. And we really want them to be treated with respect.”
“We don’t want any drivers detained behind picket lines. We would like that sort of action to stop.”