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Refinery workers frustrated no fair deal reached after mediation breakdown

November 12, 2019 - 3:00 AM

REGINA—Nearly 800 workers at the Co-op Refinery are disappointed that mandatory mediation made little to no progress with the employer and they are still without a fair deal that doesn’t include concessions.

"We are disappointed Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) continues to come to the bargaining table demanding roll backs in our pensions and other concessions, despite the fact that this employer continues to rake in billions of dollars in profits,” said Kevin Bittman, President of Unifor Local 594, the union representing Co-op Refinery workers.

"We have been clear from the start of bargaining we were not prepared to go backwards. We are willing to make changes to the pension liabilities for the employer but our members need  choice and protection to ensure pension security for every worker. During this time of sustained record profits, anything less would be an unnecessary concession."

The union believes the employers continued insistence workers take concessions of more than 17.5 per cent is unacceptable and disrespectful, given the work their member have contributed to the enormous profits the employer has experienced in the last three years.

"Offering either an inferior Defined Contribution (DC) plan while dismantling the Defined Benefit  (DB) plan is not a choice, it is an attack on our members' retirement security and will not be accepted under any circumstances," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

Unifor says FCL is trying to renege on a 2017 promise, for which Executive Vice President Vic Huard is on the record stating: "To be perfectly clear, every single employee who currently is in the defined benefits plan will remain in that plan from now until when they retire.”

Despite the employer backtracking on that promise, the union has proposed compromises that were dismissed, including making the switch in pension plans voluntary. 

"We will not accept that an employer making $3 million a day thinks our pension security is an unreasonable ask for our highly skilled, experienced, and loyal workers who keep the refinery safe and profitable," said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to National President. 

The union has not taken a strike vote in the hopes the employer will actually come back to the table with a fair offer to their employees, before risking public safety and losing hundreds of millions of dollars by locking out its dedicated workforce.

"The safest and best thing for everyone is for our members to be inside the fence, not outside," adds Bittman. “Our members love their work and want to continue to be a vital part of FCL and Canada’s economy with a fair deal."

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).