Premier Scott Moe positive about appointing special mediator in Co-op Refinery lockout
'Anything that gets us back to the table is a positive step,' union president says after mediator appointed
Premier Scott Moe is hopeful that the decision to appoint a special mediator will end a two-month lockout at the Regina Co-op Refinery.
On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government announced Vince Ready has been appointed to mediate between both sides to try to bring an end to the lockout, which started Dec. 5.
"It's our hope that this is the first significant step in the negotiations towards an agreement … that will be beneficial for all involved, and an agreement that will bring some peace to what has been an unrestful situation," Moe said.
Speaking in Regina, union local president Kevin Bittman said he applauds the move.
"Our preference would have been that there be a binding arbitration, but anything that gets us back to the table is a positive step in ending this lockout," he said.
"Vince Ready is highly respected in his field, and if he cannot get us a deal, it is because [Federated Co-op Limited president] Scott Banda does not want to end this lockout."
In a news release, Federated Co-op Ltd. also supported the decision.
Moe said that in the past, the appointment of a special mediator has generally been a positive step in difficult labour situations.
"Each and every time that a special mediator has been appointed over the course of the last number of years in Saskatchewan, they have [come] to a resolution," said Moe.
"Our batting average with special mediators is 100 per cent."
Moe said the lockout has been hard on a number of groups — from the city of Regina to small towns that have run out of gasoline.
While provincial Opposition Leader Ryan Meili has indicated he would like to see binding arbitration in this case, Moe said it was not something the province had considered.
"When you look at the history of labour disputes, that would be unprecedented in this type of a situation," he said.
"What is precedented is the appointment of a special mediator, and that is what we have done."
Both sides in the Co-op labour dispute are deeply divided over proposed changes to the workers' pension plan.
Last month, workers set up barricades around the refinery blocking entry to fuel trucks. The barricades were removed by Regina police on Friday.
The mediator will begin his work Feb. 18. Both parties and the mediator will have 20 days to reach a settlement.
Moe announced his intention to appoint a mediator earlier this month.
With files from Adam Hunter