Unifor willing to negotiate pension, Co-op Refinery says blockade must go first

Unifor willing to negotiate pension, Co-op Refinery says blockade must go first
WATCH: Conversations between Co-op and Unifor are happening, just not at the bargaining table.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said they are now willing to negotiate on pensions, the central fracture point in contract talks with the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC).

“We communicated with them on Tuesday night that the preconditions that we had put on the bargaining table, we were now prepared to remove and dramatically alter,” Dias said.

“That in itself should have brought them back to the bargaining table. The reality is they’re not looking for a settlement is clear now because they want it to be back the way it was for the first five weeks.”

READ MORE: Unions across Canada throw support behind Unifor in Regina: ‘We’re all blue collar workers’

The specific condition take off the table is that the defined benefit pension plan never be reduced.

“But we aren’t going to ever agree to their proposal, which will destroy our defined benefit pension plan,” Dias said.

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In a statement, the CRC confirmed the discussion took place.

The refinery added they never left the bargaining table after Unifor “effectively shut down” talks on Sept. 26 by refusing to budge on pensions.

The statement says Co-op will not return to the bargaining table while Unifor “maintains an illegal blockade.”

CRC says Unifor must respect the rule of law by respecting the contempt of court decision handed down on Wednesday, and the current injunction limiting traffic delays in and out for the refinery to a maximum of 10 minutes.

“The CRC is willing to resume bargaining, but Unifor will need to demonstrate that they are willing to bargain in good faith,” the statement concludes.

READ MORE: Unifor barricade at Co-op Refinery may be enduring due to missing legal language

Quoting “his personal hero” Martin Luther King Jr., Dias said they have a responsibility to disobey unjust laws. He said the laws are stacked against the labour movement, taking away their power to put pressure on employers.

“We have to fight within a system that is inherently wrong, and our members in Regina and our union have chosen not to accept the rules that disadvantage working-class people,” Dias said.

The blockade will be taken down if the refinery gets rid of their “out of province scabs,” according to Dias.

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READ MORE: Unifor found in contempt of court, fined $100,000

As for the injunction and fine, Dias said they have lawyers examining whether or not the $100,000 fine and the associated court order is just. Nothing has been filed with court yet, according to Dias.

Dias to meet with Regina police chief

Dias will also be meeting with Chief Evan Bray on Wednesday.

Dias continued to describe Monday as a violent night where women were pushed around. On Tuesday, Bray said he viewed officer conduct as professional in the emotionally heightened situation.

Dias said that he wants to avoid “the inevitable,” a repeat of Monday night. The union leader suggested the Co-op Refinery is putting heavy pressure on Regina police to break up the picket line.

“Are we expecting another violent attack on our picketers? The answer is yes. So that’s what we are trying to avoid,” Dias said.

The union’s hope is that Bray maintains that the police will not take sides in this dispute and pressure Co-op to return to the bargaining table. Dias added anything resembling Monday’s police intervention would be the Regina police taking the side of Co-op.

READ MORE: 14 Co-op refinery picketers arrested as city held hostage: Regina police chief

In a Facebook video posted late Tuesday afternoon, Bray said the role of police in this dispute is to maintain public safety and investigate criminal complaints. Officers are investigating numerous complaints that have been made since Dec. 5, the start of the lockout.

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Bray said it is against the law to completely blockade a business.

“Just because you aren’t necessarily seeing arrests being made at this very second doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of police work being done,” Bray said.

“Ultimately, we have a plan in terms of what’s going to be happening over the next short while.”

Part of this plan included reaching out to Unifor for a meeting with Dias, according to Bray.

Following the meeting, Bray described it as productive. The “frank” conversation reportedly focused on public safety, and the two exchanged contact information.

“The meeting was respectful and we both agreed that public safety is a priority. We have agreed to maintain open channels of communication,” Dias said in a statement.

The Unifor president also called on Premier Scott Moe to step in and show leadership and appoint a mediator to help end the dispute.

“A provincially appointed mediator is already in place, and has been engaging with both parties regularly throughout the lockout period,” Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan said in a statement.

“We continue to encourage both parties to return to the bargaining table where the provincially appointed mediator can assist parties in negotiating an agreement.”

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Opposition Leader Ryan Meili was on the picket line Tuesday, possibly for the first time, as other national union leaders came to Regina.

Unifor represents some Global News employees.