Unifor has put up fences around a handful of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) properties in Regina in the latest escalation of a labour dispute at the Co-op Refinery Complex that’s lasted more than a month.
“After locking out their loyal employees in frigid temperatures and flying in scabs, it’s time they had a taste of their own medicine,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president in a statement.
“Managers and scabs are locked out of the office until further notice.”
According to FCL, blockades have been set up at a Co-op Cardlock station and propane facilities on Fleet Street. The barriers are made up of fences and vehicles.
Co-op described the blockades as a public safety risk.
“By putting physical barriers in place such as vehicles and fences, the union is cutting off emergency access to these facilities, and that should not be allowed,” said Gil Le Dressay, vice-president of refinery operations said in a press release.
“Co-op Cardlock stations, like any fuel station, and the refinery contain flammable compounds and require emergency access at all times – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Emergency vehicles cannot sit and wait for Unifor to remove their barriers in the event of an emergency.”
The union says they will let emergency vehicles pass and are complying with requests from the fire marshal.
This comes one day after Unifor released a video showing the names and faces of several workers hired by Co-op to run the refinery during the lockout.
Pensions are the central issue of the labour dispute. Unifor says FCL is “demanding a 50 per cent cut to the pension plans” for around 800 refinery employees. The union accuses FCL’s vice president Vic Hurad of lying to refinery workers about maintaining pension plans in their last round of bargaining.
The union says they want individual employees to have the option of remaining on the current defined benefit plan or switch to a defined contribution pension.
Refinery employees currently have a defined benefit pension plan, with Co-op as the sole contributor.
FCL says their offer is to give employees the choice of switching to an “industry leading” defined contribution pension plan, or current employees can remain on the defined benefit plan.
The union has said FCL’s current defined benefit option is a “gutted” version of the original.
Since the lockout began on Dec. 5, FCL received a court injunction limiting the amount of time the picket line can block traffic entering and exiting the refinery to ten minutes.
Unifor has launched a nationwide boycott, calling Co-op greedy. They say they will not take pension concessions from a company that saw $2.5 billion in profits over the past three years.