Saskatchewan·Timeline

The Regina Co-op Refinery, Unifor labour dispute so far

A timeline of some of the major events from the more than six-months long lockout.

The lockout at the Refinery Co-op Refinery began in December

Members of unions from across western Canada march in solidarity with locked out Unifor members at a blockade set up outside the Co-op refinery in Regina. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Tensions continue between the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) and its locked out Unifor employees.

About 800 Unifor 594 members employed by the refinery were locked out in December.

Since then there have been threats of escalation, reports of vandalism, arrests and more.

Here is a timeline of some of the major events from the more than 100-day-long lockout:

October: Talks break down mid-month and an impasse is declared.

Dec. 3: Workers vote overwhelmingly for a strike and issue 48-hour notice of job action. Later that day the CRC responds by giving a 48-hour lockout notice. 

Dec. 5: The lockout begins at 5:30 p.m. CST, exactly 48 hours after the refinery gave its lockout notice. 

Dec. 6: Workers take to the streets for the first of many rallies the next day.

Dec. 9: Vehicles are crossing the picket lines. The refinery says it had started using helicopters to transport replacement workers and materials.

Dec 16: The union calls for a Canada-wide boycott of all Co-ops.

Unifor fenced off a fuel and propane station in Northeast Regina, January 10th, 2020 as part of escalating job action. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Dec. 23: CRC requests an injunction that would prevent picketers from blocking entrances to the refinery. 

Dec. 29: The court grants issues an injunction ordering union members to hold up traffic for no longer than 10 minutes per vehicle. Those 10 minutes are to be used to provide information to the drivers. Anyone who says they don't want the information is to be allowed through.

Jan. 2 and 3: Tensions continue to escalate. There are reports of vandalism and violence on the picket lines.

Jan. 9: Unifor promises further escalations.

Jan. 10: Unifor releases a "meet the scabs" video, naming and showing pictures of people working at the refinery during the lockout.

Jan. 20: Unifor members from across the country join the picket line. Blockades are erected by union members then taken down by police.

Unifor President Jerry Dias and 13 others are arrested and charged with mischief. Dias and the others are members of Unifor but not members in the local Unifor 594. Dias says this means they are is not in breach of the court injunction. 

The Regina Police Service began taking Unifor members into custody after the union constructed blockades at the Co-op Refinery. (Unifor/Twitter)

Jan. 21: Premier Scott Moe, Regina Chief of Police Evan Bray and Regina Mayor Michael Fougere call for both sides to go back to the table and find a resolution. 

Jan. 22: A Regina judge rules that Unifor must pay a $100,000 fine for "intentionally and deliberately" disobeying an interim court injunction which prevented prolonged and extended blockades at the Co-Op Refinery Complex.

Jan. 23: Dias calls for Premier Scott Moe and his government to intervene in the ongoing labour dispute between the union and the Co-op Refinery Complex, but the government is non-committal.

The union also asks that a new, separate independent mediator be assigned to the case, as negotiations have been unsuccessful so far with the currently appointed mediator. 

Bray says a meeting with Dias to discussion the ongoing tensions was productive.

Barricades were still in place on Thursday morning when Unifor announced they would all be removed in 24 hours. (Declan Finn/CBC)

Jan. 24: Regina Mayor Michael Fougere sits down with president Jerry Dias as members of the union gather outside of city hall. Fougere categorizes the meeting as an "information exchange" and says Dias did not ask him to get involved in the matter.

Fougere says he spent the time expressing concern about public safety and access to the refinery in the event of an emergency. He also says he encouraged Dias to get back to the bargaining table with Co-op and resolve the dispute quickly. 

Chief Bray says the blockades set up by Unifor members are illegal in a video statement released on Twitter. He says the police service wouldn't be using tactics that could escalate the situation further like the arrest of Unifor's national president and a handful of members earlier this week. He says more "investigative" measures would be taken instead.

Jan. 27: Unifor says representatives from the union and the Co-op Refinery Complex had a short meeting in Saskatoon.

Jan. 29: Dias says the union made a counter-proposal to the refinery's owner and says it wants to get back to the bargaining table on Jan. 30. Dias said the union would also remove blockades and fences obstructing entrances and exits to the refinery, in compliance with a court injunction — but only if Federated Co-operatives Ltd., which owns the refinery, agrees to bargain.

Jan. 30: Federated Co-operatives Ltd. and Unifor say the two are set to return to the bargaining table on Jan. 31. 

A Co-op fuel truck moved through the Unifor picket line at Gate 7 on Friday morning. It was the first since Unifor barricaded the gate last week. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Jan. 31: Unifor confirms union leaders and Co-op Refinery Complex management have returned to the bargaining table at about 9 a.m. CST. Unifor removes fences blocking the entrances to the refinery and begins to comply with the court injunction.

Shortly after 5 p.m. CST, both sides say talks broke off. Unifor reinstates their barricades around the Co-op Refinery Complex. 

Premier Scott Moe spoke to reporters following a speech at the SUMA Conference in Regina on Feb. 3, 2020. (Declan Finn/CBC)

Feb. 3: Premier Scott Moe says he will appoint a special mediator to help in the dispute if Unifor removes its barricades and follows the court injunction. Moe says he expects the Regina Police Service will enforce the court order calling for the removal of the barricades.

Police respond later in the day, saying they are independent of elected officials and working with public safety in mind.

Both Co-op and the union say they had been prepared to bargain all weekend and are ready to restart bargaining at any time.

Feb. 5: Four people are arrested at the Unifor picket line at the Co-op Refinery Complex early in the morning. All four are charged with mischief under $5,000 and disobeying an order of court.

The refinery says six managers have had their homes vandalized with paint balls. 

Feb. 6: Truck drivers who normally work at the Co-op Refinery Complex hold a protest in downtown Regina.

Drivers who deliver fuel for Federated Co-operatives Limited stage a protest in Regina. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Regina police remove 31 vehicles from outside the refinery gates. Other vehicles take their place not long after. 

Federated Co-operatives Limited wins an interim court injunction against striking union members who had set up a barricade at its fuel terminal station southeast of Calgary.

Feb. 7: Unifor and Federated Co-operatives Limited make their arguments in a contempt of court hearing at Regina's Court of Queen's Bench. Justice Neil Robertson reserves his decision.

Lawyers for FCL argued that two members of the Local 594 should receive jail time in addition to a "historic" $1 million dollar fine against the union representing locked out refinery employees.

The union argued they are not breaking any court order and personal liberties were at stake in the court hearing. 

Regina police stop traffic around the Co-op Refinery Complex at 9th Avenue and Winnipeg Street and 9th Avenue and McDonald Street. Police do not allow vehicles through and tell refinery security to remove fences set up by the union. Police say this was to make the area safer.

Two Saskatoon Co-op gas stations close. They say this is because of a fuel shortage caused by the Unifor blockade at the Co-op Refinery Complex. 

Feb. 8: Police allow refinery traffic onto the road around the Co-op Refinery Complex and pickets if they walk and only carry their signs.

Feb. 12: Unifor is ordered to pay $250,000 for violating a court injunction that limited picketers to blocking vehicles for a maximum of 10 minutes. Justice Neil Robertson ruled Unifor repeatedly breached court injunctions between Dec. 28, 2019, and Jan. 27.

Local Unifor 594 president Kevin Bittman is found not guilty of contempt of court while vice-president Lance Holowachuk is found guilty and given 40 hours of community service. 

Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman attended a rally outside the legislative building on Jan. 30, 2020. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

The province announces Vince Ready will be the special mediator to try and resolve the dispute between the Co-op Refinery Complex and Unifor 594. The provincial government gives Ready a start date of February 18, and 20 days to complete — either reach a settlement or to give recommendations. 

Feb. 14: Unifor pickets set up a blockade around Saskatoon Co-op cardlock.  

Feb. 17: Public supporters hold a rally at a Co-op gas station. Members of the public and Unifor 594 attend. The union says they are cautiously optimistic for the mediator meetings. 

More than 100 people showed up to a solidarity event organized by a group of volunteers in Regina on February 17, 2020. About 30 of them were Unifor 594 members, Kevin Bittman said. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Feb. 18: Vince Ready begins his work as a special mediator between the Co-op Refinery Complex and Unifor. 

Feb. 26: The lawyer representing 14 Unifor members who were charged with mischief in relation to the Regina blockades appears in court. The charges stem from an incident at the blockades on January 20, 2020. 

Court is adjourned until March 30 to give both the Crown and defence time to review documents. 

Feb. 29: Federated Co-operatives Limited hold their annual general meeting in Saskatoon at TCU Place. Unifor members protest the AGM happening during the dispute. FCL says it has no issue with Unifor members sharing information with people entering the AGM.

March 10: The special mediation window ends in the dispute. Mediator Vince Ready had 20 days to meet with Federated Co-operatives Limited and Unifor to help the two sides reach a settlement. 

March 17: The Co-op Refinery Complex announces it will be delaying spring turnaround due to concerns about the coronavirus. 

March 20: The provincial government confirms to CBC Saskatchewan that Vince Ready's report and recommendations have been released to both parties. 

Unifor states it will comply with the recommendations moving forward. 

The City of Regina is concerned about safety conditions at the work camps set up to house temporary workers at the Co-op Refinery Complex. A motion at City Council is made to ask for a review of work camp conditions. 

March 22: The Co-op Refinery Complex says it cannot accept all the special mediators' recommendations. The Refinery said it will present Unifor with an offer that modifies some recommendations in the coming days.

March 23: Unifor calls on the province to end the lockout after the special mediation ends without a deal the two sides agree on. 

Unifor says Local 594 members have voted 98 per cent in favour of accepting the mediator recommendations.

March 25: The Co-op Refinery Complex presents Unifor with a new deal based on the special mediators' recommendations. It said this was their final offer and it wants Unifor members to vote on the deal and end the lockout. 

Unifor says it cannot accept the new offer and that the Refinery is using the coronavirus pandemic to ask for further concessions. Unifor says it will not vote on the new offer because its members have already ratified the mediators' recommendations. 

March 26: Saskatchewan's Minister of Labour, Don Morgan, says the province will not get involved at this time in the dispute. He said both sides simply need to sit down and end it, and legislation or binding arbitration is not going to happen at this time.

March 30: The Co-op Refinery Complex presents Unifor with its "Best and Final Offer." The new offer includes employees beginning to pay into pensions when the recommendations said. It also includes a 50-50 cost sharing agreement to begin in 2022. 

Unifor said is has received the latest deal and is reviewing the offer. It said on social media that it will provide a detailed synopsis for its membership soon. 

The Refinery said it will apply to the Labour Relations Board to force a vote on the March 30 deal by using Section 6-35 of the Saskatchewan Employment Act. 

March 31: Unifor says it can not accept the refinery's final offer and urges its members to reject it. 

April 17: The Co-op Refinery Complex says it has reduced production by nearly 25 per cent, in response to global market conditions.

April 29: Unifor members vote 89 per cent to reject the refinery's offer. The refinery says it is disappointed in the outcome of the vote.

Unifor supporters drove past the Saskatchewan legislature on Wednesday during a rally. The union wants the province to step in and put an end to the labour dispute. (Matt Howard/CBC)

Unifor supporters and members hold a rally at the Saskatchewan Legislature to urge Premier Scott Moe to step in and end the labour dispute.

Premier Scott Moe says he will not reconvene the legislature to deal with the issue. Moe says Labour Minister Don Morgan has been reaching out to both sides. 

The Co-op Refinery Complex says it will continue to run "business as usual" with replacement workers. 

April 30: Regina's city council votes to ask the province to resolve the labour dispute. Mayor Michael Fougere is the only vote against the motion. He says it sets a precedent that other disputes of this nature can come to council.

The vote is mainly symbolic as the municipal government does not have jurisdiction in the dispute. 

On April 30, 2020, City Council voted to ask the province to end the labour dispute between the Co-op Refinery Complex and Unifor 594. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

May 5: Four men are charged in relation to an alleged April 30 altercation outside the refinery. 

May 9: The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan says it has been fielding complaints from farmers about delays accessing fuel at the Co-op cardlock near Moose Jaw.

Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman confirms fewer than 10 union members were temporarily stopping fuel trucks heading into the bulk station Wednesday through Friday.

May 11: Regina police start restricting traffic on Ninth Avenue N., which runs in front of the refinery. Police had previously said they had received a complaint about drivers intentionally slowing traffic on the street. 

Unifor members were seen along the outsides of the intersection of Ninth Avenue N and MacDonald Street as police directed traffic into the Co-op Refinery Complex. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

May 19: Unifor's president says he is livid that the Regina Police Service did not notify union members of a bomb threat that was later deemed unfounded. 

May 22: A leak is discovered at the Co-op Refinery Complex. It led to sludge being leaked into the City of Regina sewage system

June 2: The City of Regina confirms the leaked sludge made its way into Wascana Creek

June 5: The labour dispute hits six months since the Unifor 594 members were locked out of the Co-op Refinery Complex. 

June 15: Unifor rallies at the Provincial Legislature asking the province to pass legislation forcing an end to the labour dispute. 

June 18: The Co-op Refinery Complex and Unifor 594 reach a tentative deal, according to the refinery. 

With files from Fiona Odlum

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