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Unifor rejects Co-op’s latest offer, calls on province to end labour dispute

Unifor Local 594 is holding rally at the legislature grounds on Wednesday to pressure the provincial government to help end the labour dispute with the Co-op Refinery.
Unifor Local 594 is holding rally at the legislature grounds on Wednesday to pressure the provincial government to help end the labour dispute with the Co-op Refinery. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

The Co-op Refinery Complex said it is disappointed after its locked-out employees, represented by Unifor Local 594, rejected the company’s “best and final offer.”

The two sides have been involved in a labour dispute since Dec. 5, 2019, and have been unable to come to an agreement even with the help of Vince Ready, a special mediator appointed by the province.

“The CRC will be required to make significant changes to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, and to protect our refinery and jobs long-term. Recent developments in our industry have only accelerated those challenges we have been highlighting since the negotiations began with Unifor Local 594,” said Gil Le Dressay, refinery operations vice-president.

“It is our hope the union membership will soon understand that the only deal that balances their requirements and also achieves long-term certainty for CRC is our best and final offer.”

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READ MORE: Unifor Local 594 rejects Co-op Refinery Complex’s latest offer

Co-op said it believes the offer was fair for both sides, providing wage increases, pension options and a choice of savings plan or performance bonus.

Unifor didn’t see it that way, with 89 per cent of its members voting against it.

“Co-op had every reason to be satisfied with the mediators’ recommendations, but they got greedy,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National president.

“Regina’s refinery workers have sent a clear message to Premier Moe: impose the mediators’ recommendations and end this dispute.”

Ninety-eight per cent of members voted in favour of the deal proposed by Ready in March.

“The premier hired the most experienced mediators in the country. The premier should take the next logical step and implement the mediators’ recommendations,” said Kevin Bittman, Unifor Local 594 president.

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

When asked if the province would consider implementing binding arbitration at Wednesday’s daily COVID-19 update, Moe said it is not at that point yet.

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“If that were to be done that would be unprecedented in the province’s history, and I’m aware of very few cases across Canada where that has actually occurred. This is a private sector labour dispute that is occurring,” Moe said.

“My understanding at this point in time is we just learned there is the rejection of the final offer by Unifor to FCL. The minister (Workplace Safety and Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan) has been reaching out to both sides to have a discussion with respect to what the next steps are from their perspective.”

The Co-op refinery in Regina has been operating with replacement workers along with its management team since the beginning of the dispute and will continue to do so.

“Members of our management team as well as skilled industry personnel have operated the refinery safely, reliably and efficiently since the dispute began… and we’re extremely confident they can continue to do so for an indefinite period of time, if necessary,” Le Dressay said.

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“The team currently running the facility has met the Western Canadian fuel demand the entire winter and has filled all inventories to ensure market needs will be met. Notably, I can assure Co-op farm fuel customers that the fuel to support their operations for the 2020 season is available and ready to go. The talented women and men currently operating the refinery are among the best and most experienced in our industry, and they are running our equipment exceptionally well.”

Earlier this month, Co-op announced that it would be reducing production by 90,000 barrels per day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A division of Unifor represents some Global News employees.