Regina – With oil prices crashing and the COVID-19 crisis growing greater, the labour action at the Regina Refinery Complex is at an end.
Unifor, the union representing the locked out workers, said in a press release on March 20 the three-and-a-half-month lockout at the Co-op Refinery will end soon if Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) accepts the independent mediator’s recommendations.
“To be clear, our committee is not thrilled with the final report and the significant changes that are recommended,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. “We have been trying to find a solution since we were locked out on December 5, 2019. It is time to end this dispute and have our members running the refinery in these unprecedented times.”
The Unifor Local 594 bargaining committee has accepted the recommendations and will be encouraging their members to accept the deal. The committee will present the details over the coming days and the members will vote electronically on Monday, March 23.
Independent mediator Vince Ready presented several comprehensive recommendations on March 19, 2020, covering the most contentious issues that caused the bargaining impasse between Unifor and Co-op Refinery. Changes to refinery workers’ pension plan are at the heart of Ready’s final report to the provincial government.
“We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and life for everyone grows more uncertain with each passing day. We all need some sense of stability back in our lives and this deal provides exactly that. This deal should end this dispute, as it gives the company what they said they needed. We are urging the company to accept the special mediator's recommendations as we have. Anything less would be irresponsible,” said Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594.
The refinery said in a statement it was analyzing the report, noting, ““This is obviously an important decision and it requires some additional time to thoroughly review and evaluate the report.”
Three days earlier, Co-op announced it was deferring its spring turnaround until at least May 15. It had been scheduled the beginning of April.
“Moving forward, any potential new start date will now be assessed in consultation with provincial health officials. Turnaround typically sees an influx of hundreds of additional workers on site at the CRC. However, at this time, it is simply not safe for our employees or our community to have additional people arriving on site while the threat of COVID-19 exists,” it said in a release.