Refinery strike travels to Weyburn as more blockades restrict access to Co-op gas

Canada

Unifor intensified its picketing tactics on Monday by blocking access to a Co-op in Weyburn.

Locked-out Unifor workers fenced off access to the Prairie Sky Co-op’s Crossroads location, and a restaurant located on the same lot, at the intersection of Highways 13 and 39. Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) says Unifor allowed people to leave and let employees enter, but they did not allow any potential customers onto the site.

READ MORE: Unifor blockades Co-op properties to lockout ‘managers and scabs’

Terry Benning, a farmer in the Weyburn-area, encountered the blockades when he drove into town to get oil for his trucks.

Benning was not able to enter the Co-op and says he found something else to do for today, but he is concerned about the long-term impact the blockades could have if they continue.

“If we were in busy season, we need fuel. If we’re in seeding, we’ve got to have fuel.” said Benning. “One way or another, and that’s the bottom line.”

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In a press release, FCL said the blockades are not just affecting the businesses, but the community as well.

“These recent aggressive activities have a direct impact on our business and the business of local co-ops and their customers. These activities also have a direct impact on the community of Weyburn and those who rely on the cardlock facility to operate various businesses such as farming and commercial trucking operations.”

READ MORE: Unifor accused of breaking court order, vandalizing trucks at Regina’s Co-op refinery

Today’s tactics are just that latest escalation in Unifor’s labour dispute with the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC). Unifor employees fenced off a Co-op Cardlock station and propane facilities on Fleet Street in Regina on Friday.

Unifor says blocking CRC properties is simply giving managers a taste of their own medicine after workers were locked-out more than a month ago.

“After locking out their loyal employees in frigid temperatures and flying in scabs, it’s time they had a taste of their own medicine,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president in a statement on Friday responding to Unifor’s initial blockades in Regina.

READ MORE: Unifor asks Co-op to resume negotiations, maintains position on pension security

In a statement on Monday, FCL said they have clearly stated they are willing to negotiate a deal once Unifor removes its demand for no changes to the pension plan.

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The union says FCL is “demanding a 50 per cent cut to the pension plans” for around 800 refinery employees; they want individual employees to have the option of remaining on the current defined benefit plan or switch to a defined contribution pension.

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