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Federated Co-op Limited and Unifor Local 594 reflect on six months of lockout

Click to play video: 'Co-op Refinery lockout hits six-month mark' Co-op Refinery lockout hits six-month mark
WATCH: The labour dispute between the Co-op Refinery and Unifor hit a milestone on June 5, marking six months since unionized workers were locked out – Jun 5, 2020

The labour dispute between Federated Co-op Limited and members of Unifor Local 594 is now entering its sixth month.

Although there is still no end in sight, both sides are reflecting on the events that have taken place since December 2019.

“It does allow you the opportunity to look back at what’s happened,” said Brad DeLorey, communications and public affairs director at the refinery.

“Of course, it also makes you look forward and see when a possible outcome might come of this labour dispute.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan farmers caught in the middle of Co-op, Unifor labour dispute

Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman expressed disappointment when asked about the lengthy dispute.

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“People love to work at the Co-op, and it doesn’t really seem like they want us back in there.”

However, neither side is surprised the dispute has gone on as long as it has.

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

“We knew this was going to be a very difficult negotiations,” DeLorey said. “Our industry was changing, our world is changing.”

“When they started building the camp for the replacement workers, and they stayed far away from a deal as we bargained, we knew that we were going to be in for a fight,” Bittman said.

Bittman also said Unifor 594 has agreed upon the majority of concessions, but they will remain on the picket lines until FCL adds a mechanism to handle disciplinary actions.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s minimum wage going up, but will remain lowest in Canada

“The company wants to discipline and fire people,” Bittman claimed, “and they don’t want to have an expedited process for that return to work. And we’re saying that if you don’t want to fire people, come out and say that, and agree to a mechanism to handle disciplinary matters.”

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However, DeLorey said their best and final deal — that was voted down by Unifor 594 in April — was a fair offer.

“If you look at that offer, it has a total compensation package that exceeds all other refineries in this country,” explained DeLorey. “So I think they need to take another close look at it once again.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan says economy is rebounding despite 12.5% unemployment rate

Despite the conflict, both FCL and Unifor Local 594 expressed a desire to rebuild their partnership in the future.

“We have to keep in mind that Unifor 594 have been our partners for over 75 years, and when all of this is said and done, they will continue to be our partners and we will welcome them back,” DeLorey said.

“It’s going to take a lot of work to get that relationship back, and that starts day one,” said Bittman.

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