Co-op Refinery and union workers enter cooling off period
REGINA -- A two week cooling off period is underway at the Co-op Refinery Complex.
The union representing its approximately 800 workers has not been able to come to terms in negotiating a new contract with the employer, meaning for the next two weeks a strike cannot begin nor can the company lock out workers.
"We would compromise on pension, but it must be up to the individuals to decide to move to the defined contribution plan. And then that decision must be respected and protected,” Unifor 594 President Kevin Bittman said.
The refinery says an offer was made on Nov. 7 that includes an 11.75 per cent pay increase over four years, among other benefits as well as the option for workers to choose to begin contributing to their current defined benefit pension plan or transition to the defined contribution pension plan where the employee pays four per cent.
"What we're looking at doing with our define benefit plan is, we don't want to disadvantage our people in define contributions, so we'll put that same 10 per cent into a define benefit plan. And with that that means now the employee has to contribute. I think that's a sticking point," Refinery Operations Vice-President Gil Le Dressay said.
But Bittman says the company is asking to keep 17.5% of concessions, and is also looking to lessen the pension plan. So he sees it as going backwards.
"So they're taking a savings plan away from us. They're asking for more contributions on the pension plan. All those things will take money out of peoples paychecks,” Bittman said.
The refinery says it does have a plan to keep things functioning in the plant.
If no deals are made in the two week period, a 48-hour strike or lock-out notice can be given as both sides would be in legal position for job action.
"We’re prepared to operate the site, we don't want to do that though. This is our employee’s home and always will be their home, so we want them to be with us,” Dressay said.
Both sides say they're open for discussions during this two week cooling off period. And co-op is hoping some sort of deal can be struck, to avoid job action.