Union blocking Co-op trucks from local refinery

A long-running labour dispute between Federated Co-operatives Ltd. and unionized employees at its Regina oil refinery has been taken to the steps of the Tidewater Midstream facility in Prince George.

That's where members of Unifor have been preventing trucks that service Co-op gas bars in this region from accessing the refinery to pick up more fuel. The line has been up since Thursday morning.

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"We're letting all of the other trucks in," Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle said. "Co-op trucks, we're asking them to take their business elsewhere...We're prepared to go around the clock and last as long as needed."

Federated Co-operatives locked out about 760 workers Dec. 5 when the union issued strike notice. Pensions are the main sticking point.

On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government appointed veteran arbitrator Vince Ready special mediator to try to resolve the impasse. He is to recommend terms for an agreement if the two sides can't reach a deal with his help within 20 days. 

Also on Wednesday, a judge found Unifor guilty for the second time of violating a court injunction that said members could not prevent traffic from moving in and out of the plant. Justice Neil Robertson fined the union $250,000 on top of a $100,000 penalty last month.

McGarrigle said Unifor took up the tactic because the employer is using scab labour to keep the refinery running. Scab labour is prohibited in British Columbia but not in Saskatchewan.

The picketers in Prince George have not had to turn away any truckers so far.

"Normally there are about 10 Co-op trucks a day that come through here but it's been as high as 30 (since the lockout began) but since we've been up here, they have not sent anyone here," McGarrigle said.

McGarrigle encouraged Co-op members to boycott the chain's gas bars and grocery stores and to contact their board members and express support for the locked out employees.

 - with files from The Canadian Press

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