Lost in the lockout: How Regina's Co-op Refinery labour dispute has impacted industries involved
REGINA -- As job action at Regina's Co-op Refinery nears its 10th week, here’s a look back at how the labour dispute has impacted industries involvedin the job action.
Since the labour dispute between the Co-op Refinery and Unifor Local 594 began in early December, local truckers have been caught in the middle.
Long lines of trucks outside the Co-op Refinery became common sight, despite a court order that said the union would have to let trucks in every five minutes.
Truckers and trucking companies have been vocal about their concern since the labour dispute's first week.
“Essentially, if these drivers are detained or held up for 14 hours, that’s their day, they’re not moving loads, they’re not getting paid what they normally would get paid and they’re having to go over those anyways, which they’re really not supposed to be doing, it’s a big safety concern,” Director of Communications for the Saskatchewan Trucking Association Nicole Sinclair said on Dec. 11, six days after job action began.
Unifor Local 594 President Kevin Bittman defended the tactics used by the union.
“There’s always disturbances when you set up a peaceful picket and alter someone’s day, but we are entitled to have a peaceful picket and that’s what we’re doing here,” he said in response to concerns from truckers.
Tensions escalated on Jan. 2 when a transportation company said its rigs were being vandalized.
Heibein Trucking said a company driver discovered a welding spike in his tire. The employee was leaving the McDonald Street terminal at the refinery on Dec. 30 when he realized his tire was going flat.
“One was a steering tire so if a steering tire comes off a rim out of nowhere, it will automatically pull you that way, you could go in the ditch or roll or spill the fuel tankers, there's about 58,000 litres of gas on that particular truck,” Chad Heibein, owner of Heibein Trucking to.
Unifor insisted this was not a tactic being used by the union.
Barricades went up outside the Co-op Refinery in mid-January, which left truckers locked out without any access to product. Arrests were made over the blockades.
Despite action from laws enforcement, the blockades stayed up until Co-op and Unifor met at the bargaining table briefly on Jan. 31. The blockades came down for a moment before being set up again when talks broke down.
On Feb. 5, truck drivers who haul fuel for the refinery held a protest in Regina’s downtown. The group demanded the barricades at the refinery be removed and that access for trucks be restored.
“While the Lease Operators respect Unifor’s right to peacefully picket, the illegal barricades do not represent peaceful protest in any way and need to come down,” a release sent on behalf of trucking companies said.
In the early morning hours on Feb. 5, eight truck drivers were locked inside the refinery by Unifor.
Blake Ratcliffe told CTV News, through a fence, that he was notified that the barricades came down overnight, and wanted to fill up his rigs.
“Some drivers and a couple owner operators are locked in here also,” he said. “We just want to haul fuel and get it out to the public.”
Ratcliffe said he feels like he’s caught in the middle of a dispute that does not involve him, or the other independent truckers employed by Co-op.
“I have six drivers, just trying to make a living for them, keep them going and get paid,” he said.
Ratcliffe said the truckers locked inside did not have access to food.
On Feb. 5, Co-op announced it would be restricting the purchase of gasoline and diesel at its Card Lock locations across the Prairies.
In an email to CTV News, a representative from the company said there is a 300 litre limit on diesel per card, and a 100 litre limit on gasoline per card per day at Card Locks in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.
On Feb. 6, Winnipeg reported widespread fuel shortages in the area, as far as Ontario, as a result of the labour dispute in Regina.
Business owner named in scab video
On Jan. 13, a Regina business owner called a press conference to voice his concern over being incorrectly named in a Unifor video identifying temporary workers.
“I didn’t know what to do, I’ve never worked at the refinery, I’ve never been there,” Kalpesh Patel, co-owner of Birmingham’s Vodka and Ale House, said.
He added that he’s never heard of Unifor, the union representing the workers in the ongoing labour dispute at the Co-op Refinery. He said his business has no relationship with the Federated Co-op.
Unifor initially told CTV News that it was confident that it identified the correct person in the ad, but re-released the ad two days later without Patel’s name and image.