Saskatchewan

Co-op refinery workers reject final offer

The union responsible for workers at Regina's Co-op refinery says employees have turned down the company's final offer.

Union advised employees to turn down latest offer; strike or lockout notice possible by next week

Workers at Regina's Co-op Refinery have rejected the company's final offer. (CBC)

Employees at Regina's Co-op Refinery Complex have turned down the company's final offer, according to a union spokesperson.

We're still hopeful that we can get a deal.- Kevin Bittman, local Unifor president

Hundreds of workers voted on the offer Monday.

"It was a strong, solid rejection of the offer," said local union president Kevin Bittman. "The members spoke very loud and clear that they weren't interested in going backwards in any way."

Earlier this month, the refinery handed workers what it called its final offer. Unifor, the company's union, recommended that workers reject the deal.

Strike or lockout possible

Both the union and the refinery have been talking since December 2015. The workers' contract expired in January 2016. 

Now that the deal has been rejected, a strike or lockout is a likely possibility.

"We're still hopeful that we can get a deal," he said. "The company has definitely said that they're willing to go to that level, and that gives us grave concerns."

For its part, the Co-op Refinery said it was willing to come back to the table, but only if the union returned with a meaningful offer.

"We've gone as far as we can go," said Vic Huard, executive vice-president of Federated Co-operatives Ltd. "We're disappointed that they chose to reject that offer."

While the company said it doesn't want to lock the union out, it's prepared to do whatever it has to.

"We have a very robust business continuity plan," he said. "And we have a lot of highly-trained, highly motivated people here, ready to run the plant."

Trailers brought in

On March 8, the refinery brought in 50 trailers in response to the labour trouble. The union was concerned the buildings could be used to house replacement workers in the event of a strike.

According to the union, the major issue at play is changes to the pension plan for new hires.

A two-week "cooling off" period is in place right now, meaning that neither side can issue a strike or lockout notice until after March 30 at midnight. Once that deadline passes, notice can be issued by either side within 48 hours.

Unifor 594 represents 800 employees working at the refinery.