Saskatchewan

Province not intervening in Regina refinery labour dispute

Minister Don Morgan says the government does not want to intervene in the long dispute.

Workers have been locked out for 112 days

Unifor is calling for provincial legislation to end a lockout that has been going on for more than 100 days. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

The provincial government says it will not intervene in the bitter, 112-day labour dispute between the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina and Unifor 594.

"We do not wish to do a legislative solution or we've indicated binding arbitration is not within our legislative scope right now nor do we think it should be," Justice Mininster Morgan said Thursday. 

Union workers served a 48-hour strike notice on Dec. 3, 2019. They were locked out by the Refinery on December 5. 

Premier Scott Moe appointed a special mediator to help with the dispute in February. The mediator, Vince Ready, had 20 days to give recommendations to end the dispute. 

The recommendations were released to the parties and government last week.

The recommendations were accepted by 98 per cent of Unifor members. 

Federated Co-operatives Limited — which runs the refinery — said it could not accept the recommendations in full. The Refinery gave the union a new offer on March 25. 

"We have now provided our best and final offer to Unifor 594. We are encouraging the Unifor 594 Executive to take our offer to its membership and vote on it.  The deal we have offered Unifor provides its members with certainty in an uncertain industry," the CRC said in a statement.

One of the largest modifications FCL made in its new offer compared to the mediators report dealt with pensions. The mediator recommended that as of Feb. 1, 2022, members should pay eight per cent into their Defined Benefits Plan. 

FCL's new offer has employees begin paying eight per cent into their plan starting a year earlier, in February 2021, and a 50-50 share of current service costs starting in February 2022 — pushing the contribution rate to about 9.75 per cent, according to an FCL statement. 

Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the president of Unifor and on the negotiating team, said he was, "not surprised, but disappointed," by Co-op's response.

"Our members were not thrilled with the deal by any stretch of the imagination but obviously we want this dispute to end," Doherty said. 

Unifor fenced off a fuel and propane station in Northeast Regina in January as part of escalating job action in an ongoing dispute. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Doherty said the union will not have its membership vote on the new offer because they have already ratified the mediator's recommendations.

Unifor calls for legislation to end dispute

Unifor called for Premier Scott Moe to put Vince Ready's recommendations into legislation and end the lockout. 

"This dispute needs to end and the Premier needs to say enough is enough," Doherty said.

Minister of Labour Don Morgan said the province is not going to intervene with legislation or binding arbitration in the Co-op Refinery, Unifor dispute and instead are encouraging both sides to get back to the table. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press)

Morgan said on Thursday that he has no intention of intervening in the labour dispute. 

He said the province is encouraging both sides to get back to the negotiating table.

"I think they're relatively close but they need to sit down and get it across the finish line," he said.

FCL said in a statement that it doesn't want government intervention and hopes Unifor votes on the new deal.

"We want this dispute to end. That said, we can't risk making a deal that doesn't protect our refinery from the reality that our industry is changing, and that does not protect our jobs long term," FCL said. 

Offer due to international gas prices: FCL

FCL said its offer is based on changing world situations, including the coronavirus pandemic and the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

"The fallout of the oil price crash will be felt by our industry for a long time.  This crash demonstrates why we have to prepare our business for an uncertain future," FCL said in a statement. "We want to protect jobs and the Western Canadian fuel supply for decades to come, but we need Unifor to be partners in accomplishing that."

Unifor previously said in a statement that the refinery is using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to request more concessions. 

The Refinery said that is false and the oil price crash is having a major impact on the business. 

About the Author

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.