Saskatchewan

4 Unifor members arrested at Co-op Refinery Complex picket line

The union says it is currently going through a mediation process with Federated Co-operatives Limited.

Refinery also says six managers had houses hit with paintballs

Regina police monitored the Unifor picket lines at the Co-op Refinery Complex on Friday, Jan. 31. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Four people were arrested at the Unifor picket line at the Co-op Refinery Complex early Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the refinery says six managers have had their homes vandalized with paintballs.

Union members have been barricading the Co-op Refinery Complex since Jan. 20, 2020. Refinery management says the barricades are illegal and contrary to a court injunction limiting pickets to blocking trucks for a maximum of 10 minutes.

Regina police say they arrested and charged four men on the picket line on Wednesday at 12:42 a.m. CST. They were charged with mischief and disobeying order of court. 

The accused are a 41-year-old from Drinkwater, Sask., a 31-year-old from Regina, a 34-year-old from Southey, Sask., and a 45-year-old from Regina. 

Each person is charged with mischief under $5,000 and disobeying the court order by Justice J.E. McMurtry. 

All four were released and are scheduled to make their first court appearances on these charges in Provincial Court on March 23, 2020.

Refinery alleges managers' homes vandalized with paintballs

Later Wednesday morning, Regina police said seven homes were vandalized with paintballs. The refinery said six of the homes belonged to managers from the refinery.

"This is obviously a concerning development," the refinery said in a statement. 

Regina police say the incidents were reported on Feb. 4 and 5, but may have happened from Jan. 30 and Feb. 5. Two homes were in the east end of Regina, four were in the north end and one was in the south end. 

The Co-op Refinery Complex did not say any group was suspected of the paintball vandalism. Unifor said it will not comment on any allegations.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Regina police. 

Unifor confirms it is engaging in mediation process

Unifor said the Wednesday arrests show the Regina Police Service is siding with Federative Co-operatives Limited. 

"For Regina police to side with the employer and arrest lawful, peaceful picketers is a disgrace and shows the unjust obstacles workers face simply to protect what they already have," Jerry Dias, Unifor's national president, said in a statement. 

Dias confirmed Unifor has been engaging in the mediation process that Premier Scott Moe offered on Monday. The Premier offered to appoint a special mediator if Unifor removes the barricades around the refinery. 

Unifor said the mediation process is the best option to get both sides back to the table and reach a deal. 

Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the president of Unifor, said the arrests Wednesday are contrary to what police are supposed to be doing, "keeping the peace and de-escalating this tense situation." 

On Monday, police said they respect the right of Unifor to peacefully, lawfully and safely protest, but that at the same time, the Co-op Refinery Complex has the right to operate its business. 

In the same statement, police said they were concerned about the ongoing illegal actions and the violation of the court order. 

Regina police were seen monitoring the Unifor picket lines at the Co-op Refinery Complex on Friday, Jan. 31. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Unifor said refinery security personnel were filming leading up to and during the arrests. Doherty said in a statement that the filming shows that the refinery and police or some officers are working together and not unbiased. 

On Monday, police said as long as civil remedies are available, they should be explored by the people involved. As well, police said the contempt of court application scheduled for February 6 is an appropriate way to end the blockade. 

The labour dispute between Unifor and the Co-op Refinery has been going for months. On Dec. 3, Unifor issued a 48-hour strike notice. On Dec. 5, the Co-op Refinery Complex locked workers out. 

The two sides were back to bargaining last Friday, but talks broke down Friday night. 

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.

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