Police at the picket: A look at RPS involvement in the Co-op Refinery labour dispute
Regina police read the court order to Unifor members outside the Co-op Refinery. (Cally Stephanow / CTV Regina)
REGINA -- The Regina Police Service has played a significant role in the Co-op Refinery labour dispute. Here’s a look back at the services involvement since job action began over nine weeks ago.
RPS became involved in the Co-op Refinery labour dispute early, on Dec. 10 when Unifor president Jerry Dias accused the service of choosing sides.
RPS said that it was made aware that there was a vehicle the Co-op Refinery wanted on the premises, that the picketers refused to let pass. RPS members spoke to people on both sides of the issue and helped them come to an agreement.
“By intervening without a court order, RPS has shown not only highly questionable judgement, but also contempt for the highly-skilled workers fighting back against the company’s aggressive demand for concessions,” Jerry Dias, Unifor National President said in the online press release.
On Jan. 20, after the national union arrived in Regina to take over the picket at the Co-op Refinery, Unifor national president Jerry Dias was arrested along with 13 others.
The arrests followed a court order from Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench which said “Unifor Canada, Local 594 and all of its members, until the trial or other final disposition of its Action, or until further order of the court, are hereby restrained from impeding, obstructing or interfering with the ingress or egress to or from…[CCRL] Properties.”
Three days later on Jan. 23, Chief of Regina Police Evan Bray met with Dias, and called the meeting “productive”.
Bray had previously posted a video to Facebook, where he explained the desire to meet with Dias to open the lines of communication.
After an eventful week, police involvement with Unifor seemed to quiet down. Bray posted another video to Facebook where he explained that just because arrests are not being made, did not mean police were not still working to ensure safety, as well as a fair and legal labour dispute.
The next week saw a Hollywood celebrity weigh into the dispute, as well as the first sit-down meeting between the union and the employer since job action began. The fences at the refinery temporarily came down, but went back up when talks broke down.
Tension between police and Unifor began heating up again on Feb. 4 as officers were seen ticketing a number of union member’s vehicles parked on private property at the refinery.
The same morning it was alleged that RPS officers opened the barricades implemented by the union to allow a number of trucks inside to refill. RPS denied this allegation and Unifor later said that the employer took down the gates and notified the truckers.