Unifor calls for Canada-wide boycott of Co-ops as lockout continues

Both parties are accusing the other of being disrespectful as the lockout continued into day 10.

Workers at the Regina refinery have been locked out since December 5

Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594, speaks to a room full of Unifor members and media at the Saskatchewan Hotel in Regina on Dec. 15, 2019. Unifor has now called for a boycott on Co-ops across the country. (Rob Kruk/CBC)

Union leaders are calling for people across the country to boycott Co-ops in Canada as a result of a lockout at its Regina refinery that has more than 700 workers on the picket line.

Calls for the boycott were made at the Saskatchewan Hotel in Regina on Sunday morning and officials say they want Canadians to hit Co-op "where it hurts." 

"When I was growing up one of my favourite Christmas movies was the Grinch Who Stole Christmas," said Scott Doherty, the executive assistant to Unifor's National President Jerry Dias. "I can tell you, I never thought I'd actually meet the Grinch, but here we are in Regina and it's alive and well with FCL and Co-op refinery."

The campaign, which will take the form of T.V. commercials and billboards, will be set up to greet shoppers from across Canada as they work to complete their Christmas preparations.

In a press release, Co-op said the boycott is disappointing, but not surprising, claiming the company has offered Unifor members a "fair deal" that includes a 11.75 per cent wage increase, a performance bonus plan and pension choice.

Unifor members hold a "Locked Out" sign during a press conference at the Saskatchewan Hotel in Regina on Dec. 15, 2019. The union is calling on people across Canada to boycott Co-ops due to the fact more than 700 employees have been locked out from Co-op's refinery in Regina. (Rob Kruk/CBC )

Kevin Bittman, Unifor 594 president, however, says the "deal was designed," to get workers on the picket line, arguing proposals around the pension will have a negative effect on workers. 

"This isn't about sustainability," he said. "This is about power. This is about breaking our union and we will not let it happen."

Co-op however, argues the boycott is disrespectful to Co-op members across Western Canada, as local Co-ops across the west have invested "billions" in the refinery to ensure its expansion and growth. 

"Local Co-ops and their members deserve more respect for these investments and the prosperity they've produced," Co-op said in the news release.

Doherty noted that the morale among union members remains high and they'll be sticking it out through the holidays. 

"Hopefully Co-op will take this message and get back to the bargaining table and we'll be back to work at Christmas and be running," he said. "If that's not the case, then we'll be solid on the line and celebrate Christmas with our families and celebrate it on the picket line as well."

Unifor Local 594 employees at the refinery were locked out at 5:30 p.m. CST on Dec. 5.