Saskatchewan

Unifor denies SaskPower's claims non-union workers being bullied by strikers

SaskPower says their non-unionized employees are being bullied and Unifor is using picket security to intimidate. Unifor disputes that, saying their security is meant to keep pickets safe and keep the peace.

SaskPower says security guards posted at picket lines by Unifor are intimidating

SaskPower alleges that security guards employed by Unifor are meant to intimidate some workers from crossing the picket line. Unifor says the security guards are only there to keep people the peace. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

A Crown corporation is alleging that striking Unifor workers are intimidating and bullying non-unionized employees attempting to work. 

In a statement to CBC News, a SaskPower spokesperson said barricades had been up to block access to the Regina Call Centre and Poplar River Power Station, and that its non-union employees "have reported bullying behaviour, verbal abuse, and physical contact." 

About 5,000 Unifor members from SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskWater, the Water Security Agency and two SaskTel subsidiaries have been off the job since Oct. 4.

A union spokesman denies the allegations.

"Nobody is intimidating anybody," said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the Unifor national president. "This is about keeping the peace."

SaskPower's Joel Cherry also said in the statement the guards from the private security firm Unifor has employed "are outfitted in tactical gear and present themselves in a manner that is intended to intimidate and make staff fearful of crossing a picket line,"

Unifor members strike outside the SaskEnergy Service Centre near White City on Thursday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

"We consider these to be illegal labour disruption activities and are considering our legal options. Our focus is on ensuring the safety of our employees, contractors and the public and continuing core operations and serving our customers," SaskPower said. 

Unifor hires a security firm whenever members are on strike to ensure they are safe, Doherty says, noting the company also posted security in front of SaskEnergy. 

Unifor says SaskEnergy had their own security to help keep the peace as pickets gathered outside the SaskEnergy Service Centre on Thursday, October 10. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

The Unifor security firm is wearing larger jackets to keep warm during the cold weather, Doherty says. He also disputed the other allegations from SaskPower. 

"There hasn't been any bullying — threatening — there's been nothing. We've been friendly," Doherty said. 

"Most of the people that are essential service here are members, so we're certainly not going to be bullying and harassing them," Doherty said. "These allegations need to stop from SaskPower, SaskEnergy — everybody that's making the allegations."

Unifor members on strike were picketing at the main entrance of the SaskEnergy Service Station outside Regina on Thursday, October 10. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Doherty says he hopes people get back to the bargaining table "instead of worrying about making false allegations around whether or not people are bullying or harassing people."

Pickets hit SaskEnergy Service Centre

On Thursday, SaskEnergy, SaskPower and SaskTel workers gathered outside the SaskEnergy Service Centre near White City. 

Unifor said in a tweet that they had shut down the centre, but that the strikers continued to let people in and out without disruption. Doherty says this was because the union also represents the essential services members, and wants them to go about their day. 

Unifor strikers picket outside the SaskEnergy Service Centre near White City on Thursday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)
A Unifor striker keeps warm in an inflatable costume while picketing outside the SaskEnergy Service Station on Thursday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)
Striking Unifor workers dance to the 'Macarena' to keep warm while picketing outside the SaskEnergy Service Centre near White City on Thursday. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

So far, two corporations have resumed bargaining, Doherty says, and he's hopeful more will follow.

Picketing will continue around the province at different locations, Deherty says. 

"Our members are getting frustrated and if they don't see action I would expect you're going to see more and more of these types of things happening," he said.