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Unifor head meets with public safety minister to discuss Regina police response to blockade

Unifor national president Jerry Dias speaks at a press conference in Regina on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. Dias along with other Unifor members were arrested Monday night while blockading the Co-op Refinery.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias speaks at a press conference in Regina on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. Dias along with other Unifor members were arrested Monday night while blockading the Co-op Refinery. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

On Saturday morning, Unifor national president Jerry Dias met with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair in Toronto, according to the union.

“He outlined, as only Jerry can, his concerns with the show of force we experienced Monday night from the Regina Police Service on a peaceful and legal picket line,” said Lana Payne, Unifor’s national secretary-treasurer in a post published on the union’s Facebook page Saturday.

“He reminded Minister Blair that worker safety in this country matters too. And that there should be no escalation of police forces on this peaceful and legal picket line.”

Global News has reached out to Blair, Dias and the Regina Police Service for comment.

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

On Jan. 20, Dias was one of 14 individuals arrested by Regina police and charged with mischief.

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The escalation began during the first day of Unifor’s national solidarity rally.

Dias, along with 500 Unifor members, came to Regina and blockaded the Co-op Refinery Complex. The Regina Police Service has since called the blockade illegal.

Dias was arrested following a media scrum with reporters. Prior to his interview he was unloading and setting up fences that now surround the refinery.

“I’ve never seen a police department in any city in this country behave the way the Regina police did last night,” Dias said on Jan. 21, the day after he was arrested.

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

He accused the police of acting like “thugs,” adding it was the first time he’d been arrested in his 40 years of labour activism.

Regina police Chief Evan Bray has denied the allegations from Unifor, saying police were respectful and professional. Days later, he met with Dias in a meeting Bray described as “productive.”

Dias communicates concerns to federal labour minister

According to Unifor, Dias also had a phone conversation with the Federal Labour Minister Filomena Tassi Saturday afternoon.

Global News has reached out to Tassi.

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The union said that even though this matter is within provincial jurisdiction, they need “as many people as possible in putting pressure on the premier of Saskatchewan” to “get this dispute settled and get the parties to the table.”

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

Unifor said they have reached out to Premier Scott Moe and the Minister of Labour Don Morgan to intervene, and stated a willingness to negotiate on pensions with Federated Co-operatives Limited.

FCL, however, said the blockade must go first.

14 arrested following Unifor’s blockade at Co-op Refinery
14 arrested following Unifor’s blockade at Co-op Refinery
“In light of Unifor’s escalation in the past week, and the Court of Queen’s Bench orders and the recent contempt of court ruling, [Co-op Refinery Complex] believes Unifor should respect the court and comply with the court order regarding access to the refinery,” said Brad DeLorey, director of communications and public affairs for the Co-op Refinery.

“The company will not return to the bargaining table while Unifor maintains an illegal blockade.”

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

Despite the company’s request, Unifor set up another blockade around a Co-op facility. This time, it was around The Carseland tank facility south of Strathmore, Alta., which receives fuel from the Co-op Refinery by rail.

“Nothing in, nothing out,” said Payne.

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Saturday marks the 51st day of the Co-op Refinery lockout.

Unifor represents some Global News employees across the country.

– With files from Allison Bamford and David Baxter