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Strike or lockout possible after Regina Co-op refinery contract offer rejected


REGINA — Hundreds of unionized workers at the Co-op oil refinery in Regina have rejected what the company is calling its final contract offer.

Almost 650 members of Unifor Local 594 voted on Monday.

Union president Kevin Bittman won't release the specific result, but says it was an overwhelming "no" to accepting the offer.

The union had recommended the 800 employees covered by the negotiations reject the package.

A two-week cooling-off period is in place until March 30.

After that, the union can issue a 48-hour strike notice and Co-op can do the same for a lockout.

The refinery workers' last contract expired in January 2016.

The union says the company is demanding too many concessions, including changes to pensions, and is looking for a seven-day work week but is unwilling to talk about the details.

"Our membership said, 'We're willing to take the status quo, (but) we shouldn't have to go backwards when a company, or a co-operative, made $500 million last year in profit,' " Bittman said Tuesday.

He added that a provincially appointed mediator checked out of negotiations last week. That triggered the mandated cooling-off period.

The company has called the rejection vote disappointing but not unexpected. It says it's still willing to talk, but stands by its latest offer.

"We've gone as far as we can go and we've made that very clear," said Vic Huard, Co-op's executive vice-president.

Unifor has also raised concerns regarding the safety of temporary workers who may be brought in by the company in the event of a strike.

Huard pointed out that there are workers on site 24 hours a day every day. He said there is air monitoring and testing, and Co-op has done its due diligence to ensure safety in the area where trailers have been brought in for a potential work camp.

If a labour disruption does hit, production will decrease to ensure safe operations, Huard said, but the refinery is confident fuel supply would be kept up to retailers, especially for rural customers as spring seeding approaches.

(CJME, CKRM)

 

The Canadian Press



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