Regina – So just what were the recommendations of the mediators in the Co-op Refinery Complex/Unifor Local 594 labour dispute?
These are the recommendations, accepted by Unifor, rejected in part by the Co-op Refinery Complex, as put together by mediators Vincent Ready and Amanda Rogers. Their report was presented to the parties on Thursday, March 19.
On March 20, the union accepted the reccomendations, but on March 22, the refinery did not, saying it “is unable to accept all aspects of the report's recommendations in their entirety and will need to make modifications out of our responsibility to our employees, our co-op owners, our customers and the broader communities that depend on the long-term sustainability of the CRC. That said, the report does contain a number of helpful recommendations, which the CRC hopes will stand to move negotiations toward a resolution and a signed deal with Unifor 594.”
It cited changing global economic circumstances for its reason.First, wage increases of 2.5 per cent, 2.75 per cent, 3 per cent and 3.5 per cent over the four years, from Feb. 1, 2019 to Jan. 31, 2023.
In addition to the above-noted wage increases, the parties have agreed that shift differentials and wage-related premiums will be adjusted by the same percentages and that employees who retire during the negotiation period will receive a retroactive wage adjustment for any hours worked between February 1, 2019 and ratification of the renewed Collective Agreement.
The parties have also agreed to the following enhancements to en1ployee benefits:
- Hearing aid coverage - increase to $500 every 60 months
- Remove Diabetic supply limit
- Remove suicide clause from both EHC and Life Insurance policies
In addition to the above, the parties committed to addressing domestic violence into the collective agreement, and working on that issue. A “woman’s advocate in the workplace” would be created.
The minimum staffing requirement for the maintenance department would be removed.
Restrictions on what workers can do would change. Currently “silos work and inhibits its ability to assign duties such as minor preventative maintenance, shoveling or changing lightbulbs to members of the bargaining unit in a broader and more flexible manner,” according to the employer. The recommendation is to get rid of such strict job classification adherence. But another clause not allowing the employer to assign work normally done by union employees to non-union employs would be retained.
The “master operator” positions would be retained, despite the refinery wanting them moved out-of-scope.
The key point of the dispute has been the refinery’s desire to go from a defined benefit (DB) to a defined contribution (DC) pension plan. Therefore the recommendations are:
- Effective on ratification, employees enrolled in the DB Plan will commence contributing 4 per cent of final average earnings as employee contributions into the DB Plan.
- As of February l, 2022, members of the DB Plan will commence contributing 8 per cent of final average earnings as employee contributions into the DB Plan.
- The accrual rate be maintained at 2% of final average earnings with no CPP-related reduction applied at age 65 as presently exists in the DB Plan.
- No indexation on post June 30, 2020 service and CPI capped at a maximum of 2 per cent for pre-July l, 2020 service.
Employees who choose to move from the DB Plan to the DC Plan over the term of the renewed Collective Agreement be eligible for the Employer's early retirement allowance as proposed in bargaining.
They also found merit in merging the defined benefit plan with the Pulp and Paper Industry Plan.
The union members have a matching savings plan, where employees could contribute up to 6.5 per cent of their yearly earning, to be matched by the employer. The refinery wanted to change that to a performance plan paying six per cent, and up to nine per cent if performance targets are met. The recommendation is to leave the existing plan alone.
Work scheduling would be left alone.
Other minor issues were largely unchanged.