Skin in the Game

November 22, 2019

During this round of bargaining, there are two bargaining committees at work; FCL representatives and the elected volunteers from the Union. Both tasked with getting a deal done.

The Union’s Bargaining Committee goal is to bargain more jobs, better protections, increase benefits, and improve working conditions for its members.

Conversely, the Company representatives are there to negotiate concessions to gain more management rights. Examples include; reducing benefits, decreasing pension commitments, remove contracting out restrictions, control job bidding, and attacking seniority rights. These are the Company’s ways of increasing their control and trying to reduce costs, all in the in the name of sustainability.

Sustainability and profitability are the Company’s go-to narratives that they use to justify reductions in the collective agreement. These narratives are carried over from last round of bargaining when they demanded, and received, massive concessions from their workers.  Now once again, CRC is touting that the Refinery is unsustainable.  Unfortunately, the Company has only highlighted everything that makes us unsustainable and left out the things that will make us sustainable.

The Company’s Bargaining Committee no doubt has a hard time putting themselves in your shoes, they are all highly paid and their resumes provide them with lots of opportunity to move to other high paying jobs.  The increasing trend of management turnover and the influx of new faces year after year, makes it difficult to really grasp if sustainability is an issue for them.  In most cases, they’ve come from another job or a different industry. The revolving door would suggest this is simply another stop for them in their career.

The Company’s Bargaining Committee does not understand the level of loyalty and commitment the union members have, and all we are asking for in return is fairness and a good pension. We stay awake all night in minus 40 keeping the plant running, we put out fires and find ourselves in tense and dangerous situations our whole careers. We would like to think the Company’s Bargaining Committee understands what we go through, but it’s evident they have no idea.

The Union’s Bargaining Committee is working to ensure the future of the Refinery. We care about sustainability of both the Refinery and the CRS because our collective futures depend on it.  We are all in.

The members of the Union Bargaining Committee have over 120 years of experience at the Co-op Refinery. They have anywhere from 2 to 25 years remaining in their careers until they are eligible to retire. The Co-op needs to be sustainable for long time to receive the full benefit of the DB Pension and be comfortable in retirement.

The DB Pension has been referred to as the “golden handcuffs” by some people. When we talk “golden handcuffs” it is because DB plan takes a snapshot at the end of our careers, so to reap the true value of the pension you need to retire on the plan. Most workers are from Regina, and the surrounding area, and are committed to the Refinery, to their jobs, and to the Co-op system. When the Co-op does well, the workers should do well. In past negotiations the membership has set aside wage increases and other improvements in place of the DB pension. The Refinery is a career workplace and workers were content with giving up wage increases for the “golden handcuffs” at retirement. Workers invested their labour as a long-term commitment in exchange for the Company’s commitment to fund and provide a comfortable retirement. It’s not unreasonable to expect the Company to live up to their end of the deal.

The Company doesn’t seem to consider the negative factors that come with moving to a DC pension. How will a pension transition effect employee turnover now that there is nothing keeping them from going to another job with higher wages? With increased turnover, there comes increased costs of training new employees. What is the cost of covering holidays with overtime because training isn’t caught up? What happens when a workplace as dangerous and complex as ours is run with unexperienced new employees who are not held by the “golden handcuffs” instead of the dedicated, highly-skilled workforce we have now?

One must ask themselves what sustainability means to them; is it more profits for an already profitable Company?  Or is it, stability in bargaining and the future of the workforce? The constant attacks the Company launches, always needing more and building a labour camp every round of bargaining to threaten our very existence. Is that sustainable?  We are demanding labour peace and if that means going to war to get it, then so be it.

The membership is certainly fighting for a fair deal this round of negotiations. The Union is the only group that has come to the table that is truly invested in the long-term sustainability of the Co-op system and its workers. Our livelihoods depend on it. Our future depends on it. 

Unifor 594 Bargaining Committee


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