On May 27, Unifor members held informational pickets at the Co-op bulk fuel tanks near Stenen, as well as other Co-op locations in rural Saskatchewan including Porcupine Plain, Meacham, Pontrilas and Southey. Canora/Sturgis RCMP detachment members were present to ensure services were not disrupted at the Stenen location.
The lockout of Unifor members by Co-op began on December 5, according to information provided by Unifor 594. Since then, the Union has compromised “every step of the way and checked all the boxes” in an attempt to secure a new collective agreement.
“It is the Co-op Refinery that is unwilling to meet in the middle or bargain a separate Return to Work agreement that respects workers and protects jobs,” continued the information.
On February 3, the Government of Saskatchewan appointed two mediators in hope of finding a resolution in the dispute. The Special Mediation process ended with a report comprised of ten recommendations, including significant rollbacks for union members. Despite the concessions, Unifor 594 voted 98 per cent in favour of accepting the mediator’s recommendations in an attempt to get back to work. The Co-op Refinery chose to turn down the recommendations.
Shortly after mediation, Co-op presented the Union with its first offer of the lockout. It was their best and final offer which added even more concessions to the mediators' recommendations and included a non-negotiable Return to Work agreement. The Co-op Refinery applied to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board to force the union members to vote on this offer. The membership rejected that offer with an 89 per cent vote.
It is clear at this point, now six months into the lockout, that bargaining has failed, according to Unifor.
“The Government of Saskatchewan needs to protect oil and gas workers by legislating an end to this dispute. Unifor 594 will continue to send picketers to rural communities throughout Saskatchewan to engage the public and spread our message. We ask that everyone show their support for workers by reaching out to their MLA and calling for a legislated end to the lockout. It's in the best interest of all for this lockout to end. We need the Saskatchewan economy to continue moving forward,” concluded the Unifor information.