June 18, 2020
REGINA—The bargaining committee of Unifor Local 594 has reached a tentative agreement with the employer at the Co-op Refinery, 197 days after Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) locked out 730 workers.
“There was always a path to a deal,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The provincially appointed mediators’ report provided a basis for a new contract, but this dispute was protracted thanks to interference from the Regina Police Service and the incompetence of Premier Scott Moe.”
In February, Moe appointed Vince Ready and Amana Rodgers to mediate a deal that was accepted by 98 per cent of the members yet rejected by FCL. Despite repeated calls from constituents, the Premier refused to step in and support the refinery workers.
“Wealthy corporations have been allowed to act with impunity for too long, exerting their power on workers in order to profit, while eroding wages, pensions, and benefits,” continued Dias. “Unifor members took a stand against this aggression, and Co-op locked them out in the cold. In this fight, we showed that Canada’s workers are united and will fight to defend good jobs, even when governments and police services choose to side with the rich.”
The tentative deal hopefully marks the conclusion of an historic labour dispute. After the aggressive arrest of 14 union members on a legal picket line on January 20, including National President Jerry Dias and Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle, hundreds of union members came to Regina from across the country to bolster the picket line, and workers around the world voiced their support.
“I am so proud of the solidarity, strength and courage of our membership,” said Kevin Bittman, Local 594 President. “They never wavered throughout this nasty dispute, and we will always be grateful for the support we received from our Unifor family and the entire labour movement. This was union-busting from an employer that has made billions off of our backs and together we fought and defended our collective agreement.”
Details about the tentative agreement will not be released until members of Local 594 hold a ratification vote. The union worked to ensure the “return to work” protocol protected members and local union leaders from retribution from Co-op.
“The tentative agreement would have been signed weeks ago but Co-op showed their true colours by punitively continuing the lockout, now they will have to try and build back a dedicated and committed workforce that will not forget the disrespect they felt from this profitable employer,” said Scott Doherty, head negotiator and Executive Assistant to Unifor’s National President.
Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.