Unifor 594 represents the 730 oil and gas workers at Federated Co-operative Limited’s Regina oil refinery. In 80 years, we have never had a labour disruption, until now.
As workers, we are dedicated, hardworking and thoroughly trained in many skilled positions. It is our hands that keep the refinery operating safely, efficiently and at full capacity, 365 days a year.
Many refinery workers come from, or are still a part of, the farming community. There are a number of us that take our holidays to get seeding and harvest completed.
We were locked out of the refinery on December 5, 2019. When negotiations reached an impasse, the provincial government appointed two of the best mediators in Canada. The mediators tabled eight recommendations for ending the dispute. Given the importance of ensuring that Western Canada is fueled properly, at the first opportunity we agreed to all of them.
We have offered to compromise at every step of this process. Those recommendations have us taking collective losses of up to 20 million dollars a year—that’s including the 11.75% wage increase, set by the energy pattern, which the company brags about offering.
Accepting the government-appointed mediators’ recommendations should have ended this costly and unnecessary lockout. Unfortunately, it did not. Co-op took those recommendations and “enhanced” them. The “enhancing” consisted of twelve more cuts for us. Some of those reductions were resurrected from 2019 bargaining sessions where both the company and the union agreed to drop them and move on.
At the start of mediation, both the union and the company submitted their key proposals to form the basis of a deal. The final report of the mediators did its job: it provided the company the cost savings it requested while offering something refinery workers could live with. We voted 98% in favor of accepting those rollbacks on March 23 in a good faith gesture to resolve the dispute.
Yet Co-op rejected the independent mediators’ recommendations. At that point, it was clear that FCL CEO Scott Banda didn’t want us back at work, even if they got what they wanted. Not even for 20 million dollars a year in savings.
Looking back, it all adds up. Every time we get close to a deal, FCL added more rollbacks to the deal to ensure we couldn’t accept it.
FCL bought billboards and radio ads to tell you they want a fair deal and “sustainability”, but at the bargaining table they had no intention of signing a reasonable contract. FCL’s only focus has been to punish us and make us suffer. All while jeopardizing the crown jewel of the Co-op Retail System—the jewel that is profitable enough to subsidize over 100 small town Co-ops and keep them afloat.
We are in the fight of our lives and careers. We have attempted to end this dispute time and again, including accepting the mediators’ compromise with its huge rollbacks. Nothing has worked. We are in a position where disrupting the flow of fuel to farmers during seeding is the only option we have to get back to work. We do not want to do that, but our options are limited when the company does not want a deal. Feeding and providing for our families is the most important thing in the world to us. There is little that we won’t do when FCL threatens our ability to do that. I’m certain you feel the same way.
Respectfully, we are asking you as fellow farmers, neighbours and family, to help get us back to work to do what we were trained to do. Agri-food producers are the backbone of the Saskatchewan and Western Canadian economy. We do not want the lockout and fuel production issues to stand in the way of farmers getting their seeding done but FCL doesn’t seem to care.
Premier Moe appointed mediators that found a fair compromise. It’s time for his government to follow through and impose the mediators’ recommendations on both parties.
We encourage you to contact your MLAs to tell them this dispute must end. Contact your Co-op boards because they stand to lose just as much as all of us. Scott Banda is wasting millions of dollars of your dividends to keep this lockout going. Help us get back to being able to provide for our families.
Regina oil & gas workers