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Trucks moving through Alberta fuel blockade, fences come down as Unifor complies with injunction

Blockade set to come down at fuel terminal near Carseland
Co-op trucks were once again allowed to fuel up at the Carseland fuel terminal after a court order forced striking union workers to take down a blockade that’s been up for two weeks. Lauren Pullen reports.

Trucks are moving through a blockade at an Alberta fuel distribution terminal as Unifor — the union representing striking Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL) employees — complied with a court injunction issued earlier this week.

The large fences around the terminal in Carseland, Alta., have come down.

The picketers have been posted outside the fuel terminal for about two weeks, rallying in support of FCL refinery workers in Regina, Sask., who were locked out of their workplace after issuing a strike notice.

READ MORE: Judge beefs up order calling for removal of Unifor’s blockade of Alberta fuel distribution terminal

Justice Campbell granted FCL the initial injunction after the company claimed the blockade was keeping fuel from being delivered to its trucks, causing issues for customers. The company said it was rationing fuel at the cardlock and gas bar. The picketers, though, said they were letting farmers and people with personal vehicles through.

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The injunction was intensified Friday evening after FCL said Unifor wasn’t following the initial court order.

Campbell then granted requests to have police enforcement added to the injunction, to have the fences and vehicles or other things blocking people from getting into the facility to be removed.

Four arrested Wednesday morning on refinery picket lines
Four arrested Wednesday morning on refinery picket lines

The RCMP said the fences and other obstacles had to be removed by Sunday at noon when the police enforcement clause goes into effect. RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan said “everyone is very cordial on site.”

“Initially, the first day we were here, truck drivers were actually threatening our workers and threatening them with vehicles so we did erect the fencing,” Union staff representative Terry Farrell said.

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Farrell said officers hadn’t received any reports of violence directed at the picketers.

“Everyone understands what everyone’s trying to accomplish here,” Logan said.

“There are larger questions between the union and the company that aren’t happening on site but here at the cardlock, things as good as can be expected I believe.”

READ MORE: ‘Greedy Co-op’: Unifor launches nationwide boycott of Co-op retailers

Farrell said the union is ready to talk to FCL and get employees back to work.

“The company, Co-op, refuses to bargain and refuses to take this opportunity to end this dispute,” he said.

“We’re here to get a settlement for workers of Local 594 and not to interfere with any other thing that’s happening in Alberta. Collective bargaining is a right for workers and that is being abused by Co-op.”

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Farrel said the union has reached out to Co-op on a daily basis over social media, positioning itself to go back to the bargaining table.

“I would say to Co-op: Do the right thing, bring your workers, your employees, back to the table and get a settlement. This can be done in a quick and fast manner,” he said.

In an emailed statement Saturday afternoon, FCL spokesperson Cam Zimmer said while the company is pleased to see trucks getting through the blockade, “Unifor is still not complying with the full extent of the injunction,” adding the fences should have been taken down as soon as the court order was delivered.

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READ MORE: Saskatchewan Trucking Association demands ‘respect for truck drivers’ at Co-op Refinery

 

He said the “illegal blockades are causing a real fuel shortage and real problems for businesses and regular working people in Alberta and elsewhere in Western Canada.”

“We need to be able to operate our business and not be held hostage by these illegal tactics. Albertans and Western Canadians are depending on us.”

Zimmer said FCL has said all along that it’s open to restarting the bargaining process “as long as Unifor is obeying the injunctions and the law.

“However, they are still blocking FCL’s access to fuel terminals in Winnipeg, employing a similar approach to what they’ve used at the Co-op Refinery Complex and at the Carseland Fuel Terminal.”

Fraser said while the union is complying with the injunction, RCMP officers will stay at the site as long as necessary to keep the peace and public order.

NOTE: A division of Unifor represents some Global News employees.

— With files from Global News’ Adam MacVicar, Melissa Gilligan, Lauren Pullen and Phil Heidenrich