Refinery strike travels to Weyburn as more blockades restrict access to Co-op gas

Locked-out Unifor workers block access to the Prairie Sky Co-op’s Crossroads location in Weyburn.
Locked-out Unifor workers block access to the Prairie Sky Co-op’s Crossroads location in Weyburn. Provided / Marcel van Staveren

Unifor intensified its picketing tactics on Monday by blocking access to a Co-op in Weyburn.

Locked-out Unifor workers fenced off access to the Prairie Sky Co-op’s Crossroads location, and a restaurant located on the same lot, at the intersection of Highways 13 and 39. Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) says Unifor allowed people to leave and let employees enter, but they did not allow any potential customers onto the site.

READ MORE: Unifor blockades Co-op properties to lockout ‘managers and scabs’

Terry Benning, a farmer in the Weyburn-area, encountered the blockades when he drove into town to get oil for his trucks.

Benning was not able to enter the Co-op and says he found something else to do for today, but he is concerned about the long-term impact the blockades could have if they continue.

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“If we were in busy season, we need fuel. If we’re in seeding, we’ve got to have fuel.” said Benning. “One way or another, and that’s the bottom line.”

In a press release, FCL said the blockades are not just affecting the businesses, but the community as well.

“These recent aggressive activities have a direct impact on our business and the business of local co-ops and their customers. These activities also have a direct impact on the community of Weyburn and those who rely on the cardlock facility to operate various businesses such as farming and commercial trucking operations.”

READ MORE: Unifor accused of breaking court order, vandalizing trucks at Regina’s Co-op refinery

Today’s tactics are just that latest escalation in Unifor’s labour dispute with the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC). Unifor employees fenced off a Co-op Cardlock station and propane facilities on Fleet Street in Regina on Friday.

Unifor says blocking CRC properties is simply giving managers a taste of their own medicine after workers were locked-out more than a month ago.

“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 on Friday responding to Unifor’s initial blockades in Regina.

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READ MORE: Unifor asks Co-op to resume negotiations, maintains position on pension security

In a statement on Monday, FCL said they have clearly stated they are willing to negotiate a deal once Unifor removes its demand for no changes to the pension plan.

The union says FCL is “demanding a 50 per cent cut to the pension plans” for around 800 refinery employees; they want individual employees to have the option of remaining on the current defined benefit plan or switch to a defined contribution pension.