Unifor blockade of Co-op Refinery back up after talks break down
A blockade of Regina’s Co-op Refinery is back up after talks between the company and union broke off late Friday.
Unifor told Canadian Press earlier it would comply with an injunction against its picket line if Federated Co-operatives returned to bargaining, and the company said it was willing to talk if the union abided with the injunction.
Scott Doherty, Unifor’s lead negotiator, told a news conference in front of the refinery on Saturday the union offered concessions on pensions, but management made a counter-proposal that included other concessions that had been withdrawn months ago.
Doherty says the union came back with its own counter-proposal Friday, but the company responded that it had “zero interest” in it.
Federated Co-operatives says in a statement that it’s still confident there’s a path to a deal and that it would have been prepared to negotiate through the weekend but adds there won’t be any negotiations while blockades are up.
Doherty says the union sent a letter to the province Saturday officially asking for binding arbitration to settle the dispute.
“This was all theatrics for them. They had no intentions of bargaining,” Doherty said about the company’s agreement to bargain if union blockades came down. “They just wanted to resupply the refinery and get as much fuel out as they possibly could.”
More than 700 refinery workers have been off work for over a month after the company locked them out when the union issued a strike notice.
Last month, officers charged 14 Unifor members with mischief after people blocked access into the refinery and the union was fined $100,000 for violating a court order to stop the blockade at the Regina plant.
“It was always going to take more than one day to close the gap between the two parties, and we encourage Unifor to return to the table,” the company said in its statement to Canadian Press. “We are willing to talk and are hopeful that bargaining will resume in the near future.”
The province rejected a previous call to get involved in the dispute by suggesting that the two sides return to bargaining.
Saskatchewan’s Opposition leader is supporting the call for arbitration and accused the government of a lack of leadership.
“The people of the province need to hear from the labour minister today, to assure them that he will not allow this situation to go on indefinitely,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said in a statement Saturday.