Unifor picketing Co-op annual meeting in Saskatoon

Approximately 34 people were out front of TCU Place on Saturday morning to show support for Unifor 594 members, with the annual meeting for the Federated Co-op Limited taking place inside. Brady Ratzlaff / Global News

Unifor Local 594 members, currently locked out of the Co-op refinery in Regina because of contract negotiations, are picketing the annual meeting of Federated Co-operatives Limited in Saskatoon this weekend.

Approximately 34 workers, some carrying Unifor flags, were gathered on 22nd Street East in front of TCU Place on Saturday morning around 10 a.m.

A press release, issued earlier in the day, said the Unifor members will demonstrate from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

READ MORE: Unifor establishes ‘illegal’ blockades around Co-op facilities in Yorkton, FCL says

“These are the people who are funding the lockout, so we’re here to tell them to get informed,” said Unifor 594 president Kevin Bittman, who said the action was strictly “informational.”

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He said the workers were there to ask the FCL board members “how much money is this [lockout] costing…and why hasn’t the company put an offer on the table that we can even vote on?’”

The current job action comes days after Unifor members picketed Co-op facilities in Yorkton and more than a week after special mediator Vince Ready was appointed by Premier Scott Moe. Ready has negotiated more than 7,000 labour or commercial disputes.

Cameron Zimmer, a FCL spokesperson, said “[i]t’s not the picketing that we take issue with, it’s the illegal blockades we’ve seen, just like the one we saw this past week in Yorkton that denied us access to run our business.”

“Everyone, I think, on both sides is really focused on bargaining again this next week with the assistance of special mediator Vince Ready. And we really feel that’s the root for both parties to have good, productive discussions that hopefully bring us closer to an agreement that gets our CRC employees back to work,” he added.

READ MORE: Special mediator Vince Ready begins work in Unifor Local 594 and Co-op labour dispute

Job action began on Dec. 5, 2019, when Unifor issued a strike notice and FCL locked out the workers after negotiations over choices and protections for pension plans.

More meetings are scheduled for early March

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A division of Unifor represents some Global News employees.

With files from Mickey Djuric and Jonathan Guignard

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