Fifty days into the lockout, Unifor is blocking all truck traffic in and out of the Co-op Refinery. But actions on the picket lines aren’t just affecting the company, they are also impacting local businesses.
“There’s not one hotel in Regina that isn’t occupied; there isn’t one restaurant that’s not full; there is not one fence still remaining in Regina,” Unifor’s National President Jerry Dias said at a press conference Thursday. “The point I’m trying to make is we are investing in the economy here.”
Global News spoke with an employee at A-1 Rent-Alls. She said January is normally a slow month for business, but Unifor is keeping the company busy.
The union is renting out fences, heaters and generators from A-1 to use on the picket lines.
“We appreciate their business,” said the employee, adding the company has “little control” over what renters do with the equipment.
In the last week, hundreds of union members from across the country have travelled to Regina to support Unifor Local 594.
While they might be filling local hotel rooms and restaurants, Regina and District Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins said the overall retail impact on the economy is low.
“As far as bringing people from coast to coast to coast in for a strike, well it’s going to have some impact on the hotels and some of the hospitality sector. But the real impact is those employees on the line,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said picketers are likely making a reduced wage, while on the line.
In the short term, he said it might be manageable for them to keep up with mortgage or car payments, but that could change the longer this lockout lasts.
“That’s when it will really get a lot tighter for those people that are on the line as well as for those organizations that are relying on those payments,” Hopkins said. “We’re probably inching closer and closer to that all the time.”
“We need to see them get back to the table and negotiate an agreement,” Hopkins said.
Global News reached out to the Co-op Refinery, asking how the lockout has impacted Co-op business.
In an email statement the company said:
“Each year, the economic spin off from our Refinery includes an annual payroll of more than $200 million. An investment of more than $200 million in capital projects, projects that help position our Refinery to be competitive in the low carbon economy of the future. We also invest in our annual Turnaround mega-project; with an average annual investment of about $100 million. This results in annual job creation and economic spin off. Additionally, the Refinery’s investments and regular operations create demand for supplies, labour and materials from local vendors all year long.”
Unifor represents some Global News employees across the country.