Unifor Local 594 rejects Co-op’s latest offer, calling it ‘disgusting’

A man holds a Unifor flag during a rally at the Co-op Refinery in Regina on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2020.
A man holds a Unifor flag during a rally at the Co-op Refinery in Regina on Tuesday Jan. 21, 2020. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

The labour dispute between Unifor Local 594 and Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) continues as the two parties have been unable to strike a deal despite the help of special mediators.

On Sunday, Co-op rejected the recommendations of special mediators Amanda Rogers and Vince Ready and sent their own offer to Unifor on Wednesday. Describing it as “disgusting,” Unifor rejected the proposed deal.

“We thought the process was fair and the mediated settlement that Amanda Rogers and Vince Ready put out was a good compromise. We didn’t like the entire report. In fact, there are parts of it we didn’t like at all,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s national president.

“Obviously, FCL’s current proposal has further concessions and is trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 situation.”

He said there is no reason for Unifor to take any more concessions and believes Co-op should have been ready to accept the latest proposal put forward by mediators.

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“It gave the employer considerable savings and we are not interested in bargaining from a mediated settlement perspective,” Doherty said.

“That’s not how mediation works. We could have gone back and changed things we wanted them to agree to, but that’s not what the process is supposed to be.”

READ MORE: Labour dispute continues after Co-op Refinery rejects special mediator’s recommendations

Unifor members had voted “almost unanimously” in favour of the deal laid out by the provincially appointed mediators, which was ratified on March 23.

For months, Unifor has questioned CRC’s willingness to get a deal done.

“We came to the table asking for very little and offered the company millions of dollars in savings. FCL has never wanted a deal. Every step of the way they moved the goalposts and demanded more and more from workers,” Unifor said in a press release.

CRC said the recommendations made by the mediators are “helpful” but still chose to reject the deal.

READ MORE: Unifor accepts recommendations from mediator in Co-op lockout

“Global economic circumstances have changed, and with that, we have seen a drastic decline in the consumer consumption of fuel and rapidly declining oil prices that have put the CRC in a more difficult financial position than when negotiations began,” CRC said in a press release issued on the weekend.

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CRC posted the comparisons between the mediators’ recommendations and its new proposal on Twitter.

Despite failing to get a deal done with the help of special mediators, in particular Ready, the province said it will continue to offer its services.

“If they want [they can] use Mr. Ready, who did a lot work to get them to this point. I think they are relatively close, but they need to sit down and get it across the finish line,” said Don Morgan, Saskatchewan’s labour relations minister.
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“We will continue to push, but we do not wish to do a legislative solution. As we have indicated, a binding arbitration is not within our legislative scope right now, nor do we think it should be.”

Morgan said COVID-19 isn’t making things easier for the two sides.

“It’s changed since the lockout began, we now have a major health pandemic. The workers that would be going back have to understand what the cleaning protocols would be, what’s changed in the facility,” Morgan said. “They need to sit down and start working those things through.”

The mediators’ full proposal can be viewed below.

CRC locked out Unifor Local 594 members on Dec. 5, 2019.