Saskatchewan premier appointing special mediator in CRC and Unifor dispute

Sask. premier appointing special mediator in CRC and Unifor dispute
WATCH: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the province will appoint a special mediator if Unifor ceases all illegal activities.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is taking steps to end the labour dispute between Regina’s Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) and its employees, represented by Unifor Local 594.

During his address to Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) delegates on Monday, Moe said the province is appointing a special mediator as long as Unifor agrees to its conditions.

Moe said Unifor must put an end to all illegal activities, including removing the barricades around the refinery, immediately.

READ MORE: Unifor officially asks Saskatchewan’s premier to impose binding arbitration

“As premier, I will act on options available under the labour laws of our province … a tool available to me under the labour laws of Saskatchewan — if and only if Unifor 594 follows the law,” Moe said.

“It is my strong belief that a negotiated settlement is in the best interests of both parties, and by removing the barricades and accepting the assistance of a special mediator in the negotiations, I believe both parties will be well served.”

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Moe said if Unifor fails to accept the offer, he would expect the Regina Police Service to “uphold the law,” enforce the court order and remove the barricades.

It’s something Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) CEO Scott Banda said would be beneficial in continuing talks between them and Unifor.

“Unifor said this labour dispute can only be resolved at the bargaining table, and on that we agree,” Banda said.

“But the bargaining table doesn’t look like setting up blockades, breaking the law and defying court orders. You can’t have meaningful bargaining when your business is being held hostage.”

Unifor did remove its blockades on Friday at the request of CRC, as they headed back to the bargaining table. The blockades were put back after the two parties failed to find common ground.

“Unifor, I’m calling on you to end these illegal blockades and get back to the bargaining table for as long as it takes to get our people back to work,” Banda said.

“Since Unifor’s illegal blockades have remained for weeks and their aggressive actions gone unchecked, I’m asking law enforcement to enforce Justice McMurtry’s court order.”

READ MORE: No deal reached: Unifor restores blockade around Regina’s Co-op Refinery

Unifor is standing behind the fact the court order is against Unifor Local 594 and not Unifor National, who claim to be behind the barricades.

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“There is not an injunction anywhere in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, B.C., Ontario, anywhere across this country, that says what we are doing is illegal,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s National president.

“If Moe wants to talk about it or Banda wants to talk about illegal, then let’s see the court documents that says Unifor National is actually doing something illegal.

“Stop trying to have the police intervene in this dispute. Stop trying to be theatrical about somehow your values are better than the values of the workers you’re supposed to be taking care of….they keep trying to put an economic strain on us, we’re going to put as much economic strain on them.”

Although the court order does not include Unifor National, Regina police chief Evan Bray is on record saying no one has the right to barricade access to any business, union or not. They reiterated that message on Monday.

“As long as there are civil remedies available to resolve this situation, they must be fully explored by the involved parties,” Regina police sent to the media in a statement.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited Regina on Monday to show his support to the workers being locked out.

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

“I’m here in strong solidarity with you because what is happening today, what’s been going on to the workers here in not just an attack on workers in Regina…it’s an attack on all workers,” Singh said.

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“We’ve got a company who is boasting record profits and workers are fighting for a fair deal, they’re fighting for pensions. This is not a handout. Pensions have been earned, have been negotiated, have been fought for by these workers.”

Unifor asked Moe to impose binding arbitration on Friday.

Doherty said he is thankful Moe has stepped in, but questions the lack of communication.

“I would have liked to actually have had a conversation with him before he announced it to everybody else in the world,” Doherty said.

“We’ve asked for a meeting…I want to know what the conditions are they are prepared to do to appoint a special mediator and we will listen to that and see where that goes.”

14 arrested following Unifor’s blockade at Co-op Refinery
14 arrested following Unifor’s blockade at Co-op Refinery

Moe’s position has always been for the two sides to get back to the table and strike a deal.

“The special mediator will work outside of the bargaining table process if you will, bring the parties back to the table and start to work them to a collective decision,” Moe said.

“We have always said and continue to say the very best decisions are always made at the bargaining table.”

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CRC locked out employees on Dec. 5. The two sides are in a dispute over pensions.

Monday marks day 60 of the lockout.

A division of Unifor represents some Global news employees.