Unifor 594 ratifies deal with Co-op, ending 6-month refinery dispute
REGINA -- Members of Unifor Local 594 have voted to ratify a deal accepted by the union’s bargaining committee, officially bringing the more than six-month labour dispute at the Co-op Refinery Complex to an end.
The deal was reached Friday but remained tentative until union membership had an opportunity to vote on it Monday afternoon.
The new seven-year collective agreement includes a choice of pensions plans that employees must contribute to.
Employees also have the choice of a savings plan with 4% contribution matched by the company, or a performance plan with no contributions
The deal also includes a return to work clause which lays out the process for anyone facing punishment from the dispute. Co-op says there are about 60 open investigations right now into different actions over the past six months.
In order to avoid the process taking multiple years, both sides agreed to expedite it and deal with disciplining within the next two to three months
"We are sincerely pleased that our employees are returning to work after more than six months off the job," said Vice President of Refinery Operations Gil Le Dressay in a release. "This labour disruption was a difficult period in our history, but I believe we will emerge from this a stronger team and organization."
“Our members and their bargaining committee held firm throughout a difficult, protracted and often bitter negotiation process,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a release. “In the end we were successful in protecting their retirement security and in achieving the national wage pattern but this result could have been reached far earlier if the mediator recommendations had been enforced by Premier Scott Moe.”
“We didn’t seek this work stoppage. Now that it’s finally been resolved our members are looking forward to returning to their jobs and getting back to work,” stated Kevin Bittman, Unifor 594 president. "It will be hard going back into the workplace for some of us, but we will do it with our heads held high because we stood in solidarity for one another. This has been the toughest period in our history, but we will be stronger because of it.”
Co-op says the deal balances the company's appreciation for the union workers and long-term sustainability for the refinery.
"Our industry is changing and we have only begun to see how new regulatory requirements and external pressures are going to shape our industry's future," Le Dressay said. "We all need to recognize that these changes are imminent. We are better off facing that future as partners as we work together to achieve our collective goals and interests."
The 730 members of Unifor 594 had been on the picket line since Dec. 5 but will return to work in the coming weeks in accordance with the new contract's Return-to-Work agreement.