Saskatchewan

Unifor ordered to pay $250K for violating court injunction

Charges of contempt of court filed against Local Unifor 594 president Kevin Bittman have been dropped.

Injunction amended to restrict blockades at Co-op properties

Unifor has been ordered to pay $250,000 for repeatedly violating a court injunction around the blockade of entrances and exits at the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina and other Co-op properties. (Ethan Williams/CBC)

The union representing locked-out Co-op refinery workers has been ordered to pay $250,000 after it was found in contempt of court by a Court of Queen's Bench judge. 

On Wednesday, Justice Neil Robertson ruled Unifor repeatedly breached court injunctions between Dec. 28, 2019, and Jan. 27.

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

"I think the company was taking another shot out across the bow on me and making it personal," Bittman said Wednesday afternoon.

Bittman said the union will accept the decision but vowed to keep pressuring Federated Co-operators Limited., the company that owns and operates the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina.

Bittman was accused of a breach when he spoke at a picket line outside of the refinery complex. Holowachuk was accused of a breach when he was attempting to speak with a driver attempting to enter the facility on Jan. 10.

Bittman on Wednesday accused FCL of moving the goalposts and not wanting to get a deal done. He said the only place to get a deal done is through bargaining.

"We did a technical briefing this morning that outlined all the things that the company is looking to take away from us — and it's massive," Bittman said.

Unifor employees have been locked out since Dec. 5, 2019.

In his ruling, Robertson said there was "no doubt" the injunction was being violated. 

He also said he was rejecting the argument Unifor "misunderstood or were confused as to what they were required to do and what they were not allowed to do to comply with the injunction." 

The ruling indicated the union may satisfy the fine by paying $250,000 to the Registrar of the Judicial Centre of Regina for the Court of Queen's Bench, or paying half to the registrar and half to the Street Culture Project Inc.

The fine must be paid by 12 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2020. 

The ruling also amended a court injunction that dictates how long Unifor members can stop trucks trying to enter or exit the Co-op refinery, as members are now "restrained from impeding, obstructing or interfering" with the exit of entrance of vehicles from various Co-op properties.

The injunction was also changed to allow Co-op to remove and retain any property, including fencing and vehicles which are being used to block access to the Co-op properties.

The injunction was also amended so the Regina Police Service could help Co-op in removing the barricades and keeping the peace.

This is the second fine that has been levelled against Unifor in connection to the lockout.

In January, a Regina judge ruled 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.

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