Unifor wants province to end lockout at Regina refinery after mediation ends with no deal

The union says it 'reluctantly' agreed with special mediator's recommendations, but now that the refinery company has not agreed to all of them, it's calling for legislation to end the lockout.

Unifor calls for end to lockout after mediation fails to end in deal with Co-Op Refinery

Unifor members were locked out of the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina on December 5. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

Unifor is calling for legislation to end the lockout at the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina. 

The union says that while it "reluctantly" agreed last Thursday to the terms recommended by a mediator, it is shocked Federated Co-Operatives Limited (FCL) did not accept them in full

Unifor 594 represents about 800 employees at the Co-op Refinery Complex. The company locked them out Dec. 5, 2019, after the union issued a 48-hour strike notice on Dec. 3. 

In the months since, the union has picketed and set up blockades at the refinery property, resulting in in court disputes and arrests involving national and local union leaders and members. 

The major sticking point in the dispute is pension contributions. 

Before the lockout began, FCL proposed allowing employees to keep their defined benefit plan if they started making payments into their pension, among other changes. At that time, the union rejected it. 

The special mediator's report called for employees currently enrolled in the defined benefit plan to start contributing four per cent of their average earnings into their pension plans upon ratification of a contract, then eight per cent beginning in February of 2022. 

Union claims FCL using COVID-19 as excuse

A news release from the union claimed the company is using COVID-19 to leverage more concessions from its oil and gas workers. 

In an FCL statement released when the company did not accept the full terms of the recommendations, FCL said 'stark world developments' and changing global economic circumstances have resulted in declines in oil demand and oil prices.

"Our inability to accept the report in full stems from our responsibility to you — our employees, our local co-op owners, our customers, and the broader communities that depend on a long-term, sustainable future for our Refinery," the statement said. 

Unifor national president Jerry Dias responded in another release.

"Western Canada needs a secure fuel supply and the skilled operation of the Regina refinery. Instead, [FCL's] Scott Banda wants to use a public health crisis as bargaining leverage on his own employees," Dias said.