Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL) and the Unifor Local 594 bargaining committee have reached a tentative agreement to end the lockout at the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) in Regina.
Details about the agreement will not be released until union members hold a ratification vote. Both parties announced the tentative agreement on Thursday.
FCL vice-president of refinery operations Gil Le Dressay praised the deal as a well balanced agreement that accurately reflected the concerns of union employees along with the sector’s fiscal realities.
“This deal, if accepted by bargaining unit employees, along with the operational efficiencies our team has recently realized, will go a long way towards ensuring a sustainable CRC for generations to come,” Le Dressay said in a media release. “The labour disruption has been a difficult process for everyone involved, but we are hopeful that the membership will ratify the deal and our employees will return to work soon.”
The agreement could end a six-month lockout, but while Unifor leaders were glad to have a deal, they remain upset with the FCL’s negotiation tactics.
Local 594 president Kevin Bittman said he was proud of the solidarity and strength shown by Unifor members, but chided the FCL for taking so long to reach an agreement.
“This was union-busting from an employer that has made billions off of our backs and together we fought and defended our collective agreement,” Bittman said in a media release.
“The tentative agreement would have been signed weeks ago, but Co-op showed their true colours by punitively continuing the lockout,” added Scott Doherty, the head negotiator and executive assistant to Unifor’s national president. “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.”
When asked about Unifor’s allegations regarding the negotiation process, an FCL spokesperson said they would release another statement after union members vote on the proposal next week.
Roughly 730 Unifor members have been locked out since Dec. 5, 2019. Since then they’ve blockaded access to the refinery, held rallies at the Saskatchewan Legislature, and formed picket lines at Co-op properties across Saskatchewan, including in Prince Albert.
In February, four Unifor members were arrested while picketing at the CRC. They were charged with mischief under $5,000 and disobeying court order.
In May, a suspect threatened to bomb the Unifor picket line if blockades were not dismantled. Regina’s mayor received the bomb threat, and Unifor members says they were not told about the threat at the time..
Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan appointed a special mediator to assist in negotiations in February. Unifor members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the mediator’s recommendations on March 22. The FCL rejected them, saying they needed to reduce additional costs due to changes in consumer fuel consumption and rapidly falling oil prices.