Mother Co-op… No More

November 18, 2019

Some of you may remember how things were when this Refinery had employees who genuinely cared about their jobs. Many of those skilled employees, both in and out of scope, worked towards a common goal; keeping this place profitable and operational. Over the years, how many times did the loyal employees of this Refinery crawl out of bed on a weekend, nightshift or holiday to leave their families at home and come to work because of some emergency or upset?  Process shifts running short did not happen.

Over the years I can recall several times when Contractors were used during a shutdown or capital project instead of our members. When those Companies fell behind meeting expected deadlines a call was put out to the loyal employees at this workplace and each time they stepped up and completed the work on time.

What about all the fires, explosions and power failures we have experienced in the last decade? It was the loyal employees who work at Mother Co-op who responded and put themselves in harm’s way to keep this place running. Don’t kid yourself: this is a dangerous place to work. The people who work here are well aware of the dangers and the level of dedication and training it takes to keep this place safe and running profitably.

Co-op day 1951 – Centre for the Study of Co-operatives U of R

Profit. Let’s consider that for a moment. Over the last decade, Mother Co-op has seen record profits, over one billion dollars in the last year alone. Instead of saying thanks, all we have seen is our management team losing their savings plan, a reduction on overtime and ultimately, the loss of their Defined Benefit Pension. All done with no input or consultation with their Management Staff. These people are long-time employees of Mother Co-op, many of which have been here twenty years or longer. They have also shown their loyalty not only by staying but stepping up to join the management team. Back in the day, this step to management was the logical progression to retirement. You received a better pension and bonus in exchange for taking a leadership role. Not anymore. Over the last several months we have seen numerous people take management jobs, only to return to the Union. How many employees have quit and moved on, both in and out of scope? Every week we are hearing about more and more who have left quite suddenly.  One can only wonder how long this will continue.

Three years ago we were bombarded with statements in the workplace, in the media and in our own homes. Information was mailed to our homes so that our families could read just how bad things are at Mother Co-op. We had “leadership lunches” where we were provided with a free lunch while at work. While we were eating we were told again just how out of shape “our house” was and that the future “sustainability” of this refinery was in jeopardy. Since that time the Refinery has made over 2.5 BILLION DOLLARS IN PROFIT!  During these meetings, we were allowed to ask questions. The in-scope employees had lots, but the out of scope employees were strangely silent.  It makes you wonder just what it will take to keep this place sustainable in the future.

And let’s not forget Trailer Town that appeared just east of Section 5. We were told this was where the highly skilled management employees, who were going to provide the manpower for the Refinery B.C.P, were going to live on-site, two weeks in and out. In the Process Sections, we have seen these “Highly Skilled” employees as they train to perform our jobs. They may be highly skilled Draftsmen, Engineers, Office Workers, Planners or Supervisors but they are not the highly skilled process operators and maintenance employees who keep this refinery running and profitable. Is Trailer Town the new Mother Co-op?

When I started I was told that the employees who work at Mother Co-op were a family and that together we would keep this place profitable, look after each other and enjoy a good home life. We used to enjoy safety meals and safety awards, retirement dinners with our coworkers and Social Club functions that were always well attended. Years ago our Christmas Cabaret was often packed and all the employees would come together and celebrate another successful year. Service awards were also celebrated at the Christmas cabaret and so was the yearly speech given by the Refinery Manager and Union President.   Not anymore. Attendance has gone down considerably by all employees. Gone is the Presentation of Service Awards and now a retiring employee gets a monetary stipend (taxable) to organize their own retirement function.

If this company was trying to beat any level of dedication and loyalty out of its employees by bombarding us with this campaign of unsustainability, they have succeeded. Morale in this workplace has never been this low, and the recent engagement survey results support that. When is it going to be enough?

This is not Mother Co-op anymore.

In Solidarity,

Daren Drummond

Section 3 Operator

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