Saskatchewan

Unifor fined $100K for disobeying court injunction against blockades

A Regina judge has 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.

Justice Timothy Keene found the union 'intentionally and deliberately disobeyed' injunction

A Regina judge has 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. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

A Regina judge has 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.

The decision was handed down by Justice Timothy Keene on Wednesday during a contempt hearing at the Court of Queen's Bench.

"There was also an attempt, during argument, to persuade this Court that somehow the order was hard to understand or could be interpreted in a fashion that excused the Union's actions," Keene wrote in the decision, which referenced Justice Janet McMurtry's order.

"I have already found this is not the case."

The fine is related to events in December where Unifor members blocked FCL employees at the complex from entering or exiting the facility at various points. It is unrelated to barricades erected by the national union body this week.

In a press release, the Federated Co-operated Limited applauded the decision handed down and asked the locked out picketers to remove the fencing which had been set up at the complex.

"Justice Keene's ruling this morning makes it very clear that it's important that tensions in this dispute be de-escalated," Vic Huard, vice president of customer experience and stakeholder engagement, told CBC Radio's Blue Sky on Wednesday.

Scott Doherty, national representative for Unifor, repeated that the union believes the injunction applies to the Local 594 and not the national body.

"Our plan is to hold the line," Doherty said over the phone Wednesday.

Doherty said there has been some discussion with the lead negotiator for Co-op but there are no immediate plans to return to the bargaining table.

The judge noted the union was unapologetic. In December, after picketers blocked trucks from entering the refinery, a Regina judge issued an injunction stating picketers could block trucks for a maximum of 10 minutes

Fourteen people — including Unifor national president Jerry Dias —  were arrested and charged with mischief Monday after picketers set up blockades to prevent the flow of traffic in and out of the refinery. Dias said the lockout has national repercussions.

"What's happening here in Regina is a fight for all workers and every union in the country understands that," Dias said in a release.

National presidents of CUPE, the Canadian Federation of Nurses and the Canadian Labour Congress also joined Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor 594, on the picket line.

Unifor members have put up fences around Gate 7 at the Co-op Refinery on January 21, 2020. (Fiona Odlum/CBC)

On Tuesday Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL)  president Lori Johb joined picketers. Johb told the picketers that the SFL fully supports them.

"The province and the country are watching," Johb said. "Workers across Canada are rooting for you and I want you to know that you're not in this fight alone."

Johb called on all workers, union and non-union, to join the picket line. She said Co-op Refinery Complex has abandoned co-operative principles.

Johb also called on the police to stop arresting picketers.

"Arresting innocent workers as they fight for what's right does not help the situation in any way."

The dispute mainly comes down to pensions. A previous deal included a defined benefit pension for workers. Now the refinery is moving toward a defined contribution plan. 

The union says this amounts to taking away workers' pensions. The refinery says it is trying to remain competitive. 

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky

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