December 27, 2019
Over the past weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the lock-out at the Co-op refinery. Listening to the various narratives, we can’t help but think that the real issues have been obfuscated through misunderstandings, partial truths, missing context and red herrings. So, in order to cut through the noise, we would like to humbly put forward the four real issues that
It’snot about wage increases.
Wages are not part of this negotiation. In the refining sector in Canada, wages are set nationally. The 11.75% increase FCL spokespeople reference is a red herring – not a sticking point.
- 2. It is about a broken promise.
“To be perfectly clear, every single employee who is currently in the defined benefits plan will remain in that plan from now until when they retire.” Vic Huard, FCL Executive Vice President– March 2017.
After a difficult round of negotiations less than three years ago, FCL publicly guaranteed that if employees agreed to move to a new defined contribution pension plan for new hires, the existing plan would be grandfathered and protected for existing employees, providing certainty for workers and families. In good faith, workers agreed to these terms. Now, this promise has been blatantly disregarded, and workers feel justifiably disrespected and betrayed.
- 3. It’s not just a pension – It is about the broader competitive compensation package.
It is undeniable, the current pension for employees that started prior to 2017 is a generous one. However, more context is required to see the full picture.
A decision was made decades ago that instead of offering the compensation packages provided by other industry leaders (Shell, Esso, etc.) such as stock options and large bonuses (worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars annually), FCL would instead provide a leading pension package to take care of employees in retirement. So, while it is true that the FCL pension is likely the best in the industry, it is inplace of the bonuses and financial incentives that its competitors offer their employees.
FCL is not proposing that the pension be traded for a new compensation package that adds new bonuses or stock options. It is simply proposing to take away the current pension in exchange for nothing.
It’snot about the economics of the refinery, so why now?
FCL has enjoyed $3 million a day in net profit in 2018. This is a fact.
So why is their 2017 promise to protect workers’ pension being broken now? Surely not because the company has fallen on tough economic times. Rather, it appears that FCL has lost sight of the historic values that used to guide its dealings as a cooperative with employees and the community.
For the wellbeing of all Refinery workers (in-scope employees locked out and out of scope managers locked in), as well as for all Regina residents (who are safer when the refinery is run by a full complement of experienced, specialized workers), we implore FCL to get back to the table and offer a fair deal that upholds the promises made in 2017. You owe this to your employees and the people of our great city.