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Regina mayor expresses ‘deep concern’ for public safety to Unifor president amid refinery lockout

Regina mayor expresses ‘deep concern’ for public safety to Unifor president
WATCH: Regina Mayor Michael Fougere talks about the impact the Co-op Refinery lockout is having on the community.

On Friday, the mayor of Regina met with the president of Unifor to discuss the Co-op Refinery lockout.

“I used the opportunity to express my deep concern around public safety and about access to the refinery,” said Mayor Michael Fougere.

“I encouraged him and the refinery to get back to the bargaining table and to please get an agreement in place quickly.”

The private meeting between Fougere and Unifor president Jerry Dias lasted 45 minutes. The meeting was requested by Dias.

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

Fougere said the meeting was productive and interesting, adding that Dias is a “passionate and driven individual” with a “clear view of what he wants to do.”

“Regina is not a party to the dispute, but there are implications for the city both in public safety and, of course, for the police service to ensure the court order is enforced,” Fougere said.

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He cited similar safety concerns to the Co-op Refinery days earlier.

This week, Unifor members from across the country placed fences around the Co-op Refinery to block trucks and replacement workers from getting inside.

“This blockade is illegal,” Regina police Chief Evan Bray said in a video posted by the police service on Friday.

Regina fire and police have found a short-term solution to ensure emergency vehicles can get in and out of the refinery.

“We need uninhibited access to one of the gates. As of Friday, we have an emergency gate we set aside, it’s not blockaded,” Bray said. “It’s essential in maintaining community safety.”

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Unifor found in contempt of court, fined $100,000
Unifor found in contempt of court, fined $100,000

Although police have acknowledged the barricades are illegal, police are holding off on further overt action.

“We don’t want to escalate the situation,” Bray said.

“The reality is there’s a lot of people out there. Included in the group are children, elderly people and vulnerable people and we want to keep people safe through whatever action is taken.”

As a result, he said Regina police are relying on investigation tactics.

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

Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Dias, has stated he’s willing to open up the barricades for emergencies to comply with safety standards.

Kevin Bittman, president of Local 594, maintains those on the picket line are respectful and picketing peacefully.

“[Members] have been on their best behaviours, they’ve remained their cool on the picket line, they’ve been maintaining a positive attitude,” Bittman previously stated.

Dias also told Global News he would take down the barricades if the refinery gets rid of its “out-of-province scabs,” while the Co-op Refinery said Unifor must respect the law by removing the barricade.

Both the mayor and police chief believe the only solution to the dispute is to meet at the bargaining table.

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

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Unifor stated it’s willing to negotiate on pensions with Federated Co-operatives Limited, but FCL said the blockade must go first.

“Where there is a will there’s a way and if they want to come to an agreement, they will,” Fougere said.

“The bargaining table is truly the fix to this,” Bray said.

Unifor represents some Global News employees across the country.

– With files from Allison Bamford and David Baxter. 

Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested as Co-op Refinery labour dispute escalates
Unifor president Jerry Dias arrested as Co-op Refinery labour dispute escalates