Professor raising concerns around safety at Co-op Refinery amid labour dispute
REGINA -- For the majority of the dispute between Federated Co-operatives Limited and Unifor 594 members, the questions surrounding safety have been focused on work inside the Regina refinery and what’s happening on the picket lines.
A professor at the University of Regina is raising concerns about the temporary work camp set up at the refinery, because of its proximity to the plant.
Human resources management professor Sean Tucker says he’s asked the city multiple times to explain why and when the camp was approved, but hasn’t heard anything back.
"If I’ve had questions for Regina fire, the Regina police, the Ministry of the Environment, Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, and any other body, I usually hear back in a day or two. So, this is unusual. It's been several weeks since I put questions to the city," Tucker said.
The city did however respond to CTV News on Friday, saying a 12 month temporary development and building permit was issued on Oct. 11, 2019. Additional permits for expansion of the initial camp were issued on Dec. 3, 2019 and Jan. 16, 2020. Co-op also confirmed to the city that the work camp was outside the blast zone of any incidents.
The city says if a development permit complies with the zoning and building bylaws, the city is legally obligated to issue a permit.
"In this case, the zoning bylaw provisions supported the permit and the structures met the national building code, so they were approved," the city said in a statement.
Regina police are not aware of any new safety concerns and says it's been relatively uneventful on the picket lines.
Co-op says there have been no injuries inside the refinery since the labour dispute began in December. There have also been no issues of workers getting too tired.
Co-op says there is an evacuation strategy that is a part of the companies emergency preparedness planning.
“Are they fatigued? Probably some are, but we don't know. They signed a non-disclosure agreement, they're payed very well during the dispute,” Tucker said.
The Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety says inspections were completed on Dec. 3, 2019 and Jan. 14, 2020 at the refinery
Workers in the complex have the necessary training, and are competently and safely performing their tasks.
"There were no notices of contravention issued on either visit,” the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety said in a statement.
"There’s been a few air quality exceedances, the Ministry of Environment has noted those. We had some larger flaring there. And then on February 2, we had a large release on Sunday. And that is being investigated right now," Tucker said.
Co-op says any abnormal flares seen at the refinery were the result of SaskPower dealing with power outages
A special mediator appointed by the province began working with both sides on Tuesday to try and find a solution.