Unifor president arrested during blockade of Regina’s Co-op Refinery

Click to play video: 'Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested as Co-op Refinery labour dispute escalates'
Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested as Co-op Refinery labour dispute escalates
WATCH: Unifor president Jerry Dias was arrested by Regina police outside the Co-op Refinery. – Jan 20, 2020

Unifor national president Jerry Dias has been arrested in Regina following a tense day on the picket line outside Regina’s Co-op Refinery Complex.

Click to play video: 'Scott Doherty – Assistant to Unifor’s National President'
Scott Doherty – Assistant to Unifor’s National President

The day began with Unifor saying they are not letting any traffic in or out of the Co-op Refinery, despite a court injunction limiting traffic delays to 10 minutes. This is the latest escalation as the labour dispute enters its sixth week.

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“The injunction was against Local 594. The national union is now the group legally that is doing the major blockade, so we’ll deal with that in court,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said on Monday morning.

“Our argument today is that we are not violating any injunction at all.”

Dias said that the national union and Local 594, which represents Regina’s refinery employees, are separate legal entities and the national union has not been taken to court.

A truck sits on the train tracks near the Co-op Refinery as Unifor blocks all traffic in and out of the complex on Jan. 20, 2019. Stewart Manahs/Global News

In a press release, Federated Co-opertatives Limited (FCL) said the union is “illegally blockading the Co-op Refinery’s entrance points.”  FCL described the blockades as a “bullying tactic” and argue this is another violation of the court injunction.

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The court decision lists “Unifor Canada, Local 594, representing all members of Unifor Canada, Local 594” as defendants.

FCL argues this language means the injunction extends to all of Unifor, not just Local 594.

“We have been in contact with the Regina Police Service today and are exploring all of our legal options.  The union continues to be breaking the law,” FCL spokesperson Brad DeLorey said in an emailed response.

Under a court order, picketers are only allowed to hold up traffic in and out of the refinery for 10 minutes. That was considered enough time for picketers to explain their position on the pension dispute.

The Regina Police Service (RPS) were on site Monday morning. At the time, the RPS said their role is to keep the peace and ensure everyone’s rights are upheld.

On Monday afternoon around 3:30 p.m., police reportedly warned picketers at the refinery’s Gate 7 that they have to move and are in violation of the court injunction.

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Police on the scene told picketers that they will be given a “reasonable amount of time” to comply with the court order. Anyone that continues to blockade the refinery risks arrest and a charge of violating a court order and/or mischief, according to police.

Picketers were told that anyone on the line who is not a member of Unifor Local 594 could be charged with aiding and abetting the intentional violation of a court order.

Vehicles used in the blockade began to be towed away around 4:40 p.m. on Monday, under police supervision.

Earlier in the day on Monday, police said they were in regular contact with both sides in the labour dispute.

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A long line of Co-op fuel trucks waits outside the refinery due to a Unifor blockade on Jan. 20, 2019. Stewart Manhas/Global News

Picketers began to block tow-truck drivers from leaving the area, late Monday afternoon.

Dias spoke with the media shortly after 5 p.m. He said that they brought 500 members to Regina and plan to bring more to the refinery line. He expects another 200 to 250 Unifor members to join the picket line from across Canada on Tuesday.

“We are not going anywhere. We are not going to let the police take away this truck. We are not going to allow them to gain access to take trucks into the facilities,” Dias told reporters.

“This is a critical part of the strike. We are putting out a call to our 315,000 Unifor members across the country to get to Regina, because this thing is starting to heat up and it’s going to get worse before it gets better if, in fact, Co-op doesn’t come to the bargaining table.”

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Dias acknowledged that police have a job to do, but they also have a job to do. Dias added he is not afraid of getting arrested.

“If it’s a crime to maintain the jobs for those that live in Saskatchewan instead of the scabs that they’re bringing in from Alberta, I guess we’re breaking the law,” Dias said.

The picketers were unloading and setting up fences in the area, while Dias spoke with the press.

About 20 minutes after speaking to reporters, Dias was arrested by Regina police.

Click to play video: 'Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested during Regina Co-op Refinery blockade'
Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested during Regina Co-op Refinery blockade

Unifor’s national secretary-treasurer Lana Payne, told reporters six people, including Dias, were arrested.

The Regina Police Service later said seven men in total had been arrested. In an email, police spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich said names and charges will be released once that information becomes available.

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As of Tuesday morning, 14 members have been arrested, according to Unifor.

Following Dias’ arrest, picketers began to set up fencing to continue their refinery blockade.

Scott Doherty, Dias personal assistant, spoke to picketers around 9 p.m. He said he received word from Dias the he didn’t want to see more picketers arrested and to let the tow trucks take vehicles away.

The removal process reportedly began smoothly, until one picketer jumped on a vehicle in an apparent attempt to stop it from being removed.

“So let me be crystal clear, crystal clear, we gave them one truck, there’s forty here that’re not going f—ing anywhere!” Doherty told the picketers.

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“We’re gonna hold this line forever if we have to! We’ve already put calls out to get more people here.”

Around 9:20 p.m., Unifor members began putting up a second fence at the refinery’s Gate 7. Access to the site is still blocked.

Over the weekend, Unifor released another “scab video” on their social media. The latest video is requesting the names of replacement workers photographed on refinery grounds.

FCL said Unifor is engaging in “spy tactics,” using a telephoto lens to take photos on workers, calling it a “serious invasion of privacy.”

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This blockade follows a previous “meet the scabs” video, blockades of Co-op retailers and calls for a nationwide boycott as the labour dispute escalated.

WATCH: Monday began with Unifor’s national chapter blockading the Co-op Refinery in Regina as a labour dispute escalated. By 6 p.m. Unifor president Jerry Dias had been arrested. Allison Bamford was live at 6 with the details from the picket line. 

-With files from Global News’ Allison Bamford. 

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