Why are we escalating?

January 12, 2020

Unifor 594 is in the fight of its life against a powerful corporation. 

Fighting to keep what you have is no easy feat when you are up against a greedy corporation that calls itself a co-op. This Co-op is willing to spend or lose hundreds of millions of dollars to hurt families and try and break us.

With the lockout now in its second month, we have to increase the pressure on Co-op to bargain a fair deal with us.

The decision to escalate was not made lightly. But sometimes drastic times require drastic measures.

We consider ourselves part of the Co-op family. We are proud of our role within this co-operative system. From the beginning of this 85-year success story, Refinery workers have been active supporters of the co-operative values that make Co-op such a unique, important enterprise. It is a great source of pride for generations of workers at our plant to keep the only co-operatively operated Refinery in North America safe and profitable.

But our experience with Co-op has been steadily worsening over recent years.

After months of contentious bargaining, we were locked out of the Refinery on December 5. The Refinery may be our employer, but we are bargaining with Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), too.

Our escalation now comes after months of hostility at the bargaining table and toxicity in the workplace. It comes after our membership has had to withstand disrespect and intimidation. It comes after seeing our managers forced to choose between being imprisoned at the plant during this lockout or be fired. It comes after being purposefully pitted against fellow working people like truckers whom we consider respected colleagues. It comes after getting the loud & clear message that our livelihoods and futures require cuts so a rich Company can get richer.

We no longer feel like valued employees, members, and owners of Co-op – just an asset to be purchased at the lowest cost to the Company.

Our members refuse to let the Refinery deteriorate into a place devoid of integrity and human value. 

We are using our collective power to stand up to FCL and demand a return to the bargaining table without concessions.

Even though the Company seems content with spending hundreds of millions to keep us out indefinitely, we don’t want to spend any more time away from the jobs we love.

Co-op says it respects its employees and respects the facts. Does the Company really think anyone is buying its campaign of misinformation? What rational person would believe we would spend the winter on a picket line because we DON’T want a raise and DON’T want to pay into our pension?

We are on the line because Co-op wants us to choose between a gutted pension or one that is worth half our current pension. We are on the line because we refuse to accept a deal that has us going backwards by 15% while the Company rakes in billions and its future is blindingly bright.

With the Company behaving more and more like a greedy corporation every day, the betrayal of its co-operative values cannot go unchallenged.

We may be a small workforce, but this fight is bigger than us.

This is about respect for workers – especially when they face danger to make you $3 million a day and keep your plant safe. This is about pension security – people who say we should just be happy with what we get don’t realize that when unions allow rights to slide, it isn’t long before no one has them.

We will not be discouraged. We will not back down.

For the local businesses we are not patronizing while locked out, for the truckers and related businesses impacted by this lockout, for our families, and for our futures, we need to try and get the Co-op Refinery and FCL back to the table sooner rather than later.

And so, we are escalating.

We appreciate any disappointment or frustration our supporters and observers may feel as we escalate our fight. We hope people understand how things got to this point and why we have to do whatever it takes to get the Company back to the bargaining table with a fair deal.

Like the founders of Co-op Refinery, sometimes people need to band together, organize and put it all on the line, for the betterment of all. This is our goal and we appreciate your support in achieving it.

        – Unifor 594


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