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Saskatchewan government appoints special mediator in Unifor, Co-op dispute

Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan has appointed Vince Ready as a special mediator to assist in the negotiations between Unifor Local 594 and the Consumer’s Co-operative Refineries Limited.
Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan has appointed Vince Ready as a special mediator to assist in the negotiations between Unifor Local 594 and the Consumer’s Co-operative Refineries Limited. Mark Taylor / The Canadian Press

The Saskatchewan government officially appointed a special mediator to assist in negotiations between Unifor Local 594 and the Consumer’s Co-operative Refineries Ltd. on Wednesday.

Vince Ready, who has worked in labour relations since 1965 and arbitrated and or mediated more than 7,000 labour and commercial disputes in Canada, will take on the role.

“It is in the interest of both parties to negotiate a contract at the bargaining table,” said Don Morgan, labour relations and workplace safety minister.

READ MORE: Unifor sets up blockade at Co-op bulk storage facility near Moose Jaw, Sask.

“The parties have had the opportunity to negotiate an agreement and have been unsuccessful.  We are appointing a special mediator to help resolve the impasse because of the impact of the dispute on Saskatchewan families, communities and businesses.”

The province said the special mediator is set to start next Tuesday. If Unifor and Co-op fail to reach an agreement, the mediator will provide parties and Morgan with recommended terms for an agreement.

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“Vince Ready is probably the best in the business if there is somebody who can bridge that gap and get us there. We are cautiously optimistic that he can get us there,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 president.

“I’ve been at the bargaining table every day that we have sat across the company and we’re concerned the company doesn’t want to deal.

“Right now, it’s affected communities. You walk downtown in Regina; there is definitely a fracture there…it’s not good for the province. We’re a small province and I think we need to get back to where we are living in this community united.”

READ MORE: Regina police re-open Ninth Avenue to allow picketers to access Co-op Refinery Complex

At that point, the parties and mediator will have 20 days to reach an agreement.

“We have had success with the appointment of a special mediator in past disputes and are hopeful that the outstanding issues between the parties can be resolved with the assistance of Mr. Ready,” Morgan said.

In a statement issued to the media following the government’s decision, Co-op said they are pleased and “look forward to meaningful discussions with Mr. Ready that lead to a long-term, sustainable agreement that works for both parties.”

Labour action began on Dec. 5, 2019, after Unifor issued a strike notice, followed by Co-op locking out its workers.

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A division of Unifor represents some Global news employees.