A contract dispute between management and unionized workers at Regina’s Co-op Refinery could affect fuel supplies in some parts of Western Canada if a deal isn’t reached soon, Saskatchewan’s minister of labour said Friday.
The government will be monitoring operations carefully to ensure that fuel production continues and temporary workers are safe, Don Morgan said.
“We have indicated to both sides that if there is anything else that they want from us by way of mediation, arbitration or conciliation, we’ll make all the facilities we have available at any time,” he said Friday.
He said the refinery is the main supply line for Co-ops across Saskatchewan, Alberta and into the interior of British Columbia.
“We don’t know if they will be able to continue operating or look for alternate sources of supply,” Morgan said.
Hundreds of union workers at the Regina refinery continued to picket outside of the complex Friday. More than 700 unionized employees were locked out on Thursday after their union, Unifor, issued a 48-hour strike notice two days earlier. The workers also held a rally Friday.
Scott Doherty, the executive assistant to the national president of Unifor, said pensions are a key issue.
“Our message to Co-op is to get back to the bargaining table, get the concessions and we’ll get a fair deal and let’s get back to work,” he said.
Doherty said they are stopping field trucks coming in and out of the refinery and also trying to prevent temporary workers from entering the facility.
“Obviously, they are running right now and there are some trucks going in and out, but our hope is to cut (the fuel supply) down entirely and at some point that may happen,” he said.
“If they want to make sure fuel supply isn’t interrupted, then they should get our members back to work.”
Co-op has cited safety reasons for the lockout.
“We remain committed to the bargaining process, but there have been no further discussions with the union executive,” company spokesman Brad DeLorey said in a statement Friday.
“The refinery is running at planned rates and there are no injuries or incidents to report.”
The workers’ last contract expired in February, while the company reported in March that 2018 was a record year for earnings of nearly $1.1 billion on close to $10.7 billion in sales.