Saskatchewan

'Sitting on the side of the road': Lineups for trucks at Regina Co-op refinery pickets concern industry

Some owners of local trucking companies contracted to haul fuel from the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina say the wait times for trucks at picket lines are hurting their business and causing concerns for drivers' safety.

Unifor says it's made adjustments to deal with problems

Workers at the Regina Co-op refinery were locked out on Dec. 5. Some trucking company owners and drivers have complained of long waits at picket lines. (CBC)

Some owners of local trucking companies contracted to haul fuel from the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina say the wait times for trucks at picket lines are hurting their business and causing concerns for drivers' safety.

Heather Day, president of C.S. Day Transport, said Friday that picketers at the refinery, where Unifor workers have been locked out since Dec. 5, are only letting in one truck every couple of hours.

That's significantly affected how much of her fleet is able to get across, she says.

"Typically we'll get out about 50 loads in a day," Day said Friday. "Yesterday, we got three."

Day said drivers are worried about the impact the shortage of fuel going out may have on businesses like gas stations, which rely on the fuel shipments.

That could, in turn, have an effect on farmers. If they can't access fuel, they may fall further behind, after the poor seeding and harvest seasons they had this year. 

Heather Day, owner of C.S. Day Transport Ltd., says the wait times for truckers at picket lines are having an impact on drivers. (CBC)

On the business front, Day said she hasn't had time to closely examine her company's finances lately, but knows the strike has taken its toll. She worries about smaller companies affected by the strike that don't have as much financial stability.

"I'm concerned that some of my competitors might be struggling and might be having to deal with layoffs," she said.   

The long waits are also taking a toll on drivers, she said, because they're likely spending most, if not all, of their shifts waiting.

If they're lucky enough to get through, they still have to wait at the picket line to get out.

Trevor Sali, who owns Sali Transport, was among the drivers who had to wait at the picket line this week. He said it took him six hours to get into the refinery. Once he loaded his truck, it was another hour and a half before he was allowed out, he says, adding he knows another driver who waited more than 24 hours to get in.

"Our shift was just sitting on the side of the road, waiting to get into the refinery," said Sali.

Trevor Sali, owner of Sali Transport, says it took him six hours to get into the refinery. (CBC)

The extra hours to pick up loads can be hard for the drivers, says Day.

"Christmas [is] coming," she said. "A lot of our guys are dads. They've got children with Christmas concerts coming up. [There's] disruption to their home lives and routines." 

Adjustments made: Unifor

Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman said he's heard the truckers' concerns and adjustments have been made. That includes letting trucks that are trying to leave the refinery drive past the picket line so that drivers can change shifts.

He said the truck drivers he's encountered have been in good spirits, and he hasn't heard of any confrontations between picketers and drivers. 

"Truckers have been bringing us coffee [and] doughnuts," he said. "We've gotten really good support. We know that they're caught in the middle and we respect them back."

Although the wait can be a hassle, he said it's part of the lockout process. 

Around 720 refinery employees represented by Unifor were locked out on Dec. 5. The dispute between workers and refinery management has mostly been over changes to employees' pension plans.

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