The Importance of a Union

October 3, 2019

There is no time for ease and comfort, it is the time to dare and endure.” Winston Churchill

If any Refinery workers ever doubt what a Union has done for them, it’s best to consider some facts. Just look at how the Company has cut management’s benefits and gutted their pension. Do you want that? The union’s job is to protect you and we should all now appreciate the protection it offers.  Without a Union in this plant, we would be suffering the same fate as our management co-workers. 

Federated Cooperative’s complete disregard for its employees is apparent and we need to be ready for the coming few weeks.  Anyone who believes we will get through without a fight needs to familiarize themselves with what’s going on.  The Company has shown no signs of respecting the workforce that keeps it safe and profitable. Our contract expired and we are ready for a battle. 

All of us have been bracing for trouble. We have all been controlling spending, we didn’t go on that extra trip, and we have re-thought large purchases.  We know this is not a game.  FCL is not playing, they are coming for our hard-won benefits that our union has fought for these last 75 years and we won’t be going down without a fight. 

The last round of bargaining didn’t go how we hoped, but this round is different.  When you come after a large, united membership and threaten their very existence — it will not go well.  If you remember from the last round, the Company put an article in the Leader-Post referencing our “Toronto-Based Union”. Well, that Toronto-based union is what gives us the benefits and protections of approximately 320,000 other union members across the country that all have our back. They are actively helping us and watching this dispute heat up, ready to mobilize support.

FCL is a hypocrite. We work in a place that was a leader in the co-operative movement back in the day. It is shameful how little FCL values its own cooperative system now.  We the workers at the plant value it more than they do.  We are active in our communities, and we understand how important the Co-op has been to rural Saskatchewan these many years.  Nowadays, the grassroots Co-op is overrun with corporate executives looking to make their name in the business world.  There should be no place for them in this system.  Their values are not cooperative values.  They say we make too much money, but ask yourself why don’t they tell us what they make?  Likely because its so offensively high perhaps in the millions per year each, and they know they would have no credibility if anyone knew. 

Union values are cooperative values.  Everything the union fights for is similar to why the Co-op came into existence in the first place.  To fight corporate greed. To protect communities and workers.  In this war with FCL, the most likely casualty will be the cooperative retail system itself.  The FCL executive’s greedy decisions will likely cost the co-op system billions of dollars in lost revenues over the next few years.  Look at what has happened after the Saskatoon strike.  They may never recover their market share.  People don’t want to shop at Co-op if it no longer represents true cooperative values. They are just another greedy corporation at that point and one that doesn’t offer as much incentive as most others do.  This is not right. 

The Union wants to protect the cooperative system. And we want to be respected for our experience, skills, and loyalty; for keeping the Refinery safe and profitable. We just want fairness. 

When workers are backed into a corner, they have two options: they can lie down and die, or, they can fight regardless of the odds.  We are ready to fight, and we will fight.  Now is the time for all 594 members to stand firm together. The power of our unity can defeat the greedy profiteers who only care about the bottom line. 

Refinery workers deserve respect. We work in a dangerous industry where there are risks to our life and health. Respect is about more than benefits and wages. We should not be fooled or scared by the Company’s false statements about our sustainability.  If they really are losing so much money, you have to ask yourself, why can’t they prove it?  Why won’t they open their books to us to show how much money we are supposedly bleeding? How can they be in such a dire financial position when it is a FACT that FCL made over 2.6 billion dollars over the course of our last contract agreement?  Because it’s a lie and they are just hoping we are too stupid to notice.  They are hoping that we are weak and will not fight.  That’s why they hate Unions – because we are strong in solidarity and fight for what is just and right.  That is our advantage.  We have empathy for our team and for others, and we understand the power of the Union.  They do not, and it will be their downfall. 

In solidarity,

Unifor 594 Bargaining Committee

PS: What can you do? Take action on the ideas at #SupportUnifor594 and share them far and wide. And keep spreading the word about Respect for Refinery Workers and a #FairDeal!