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Unifor announces boycott campaign against Co-op in refinery labour dispute


REGINA — The union that represents hundreds of locked-out workers at a Regina refinery is calling for a nation-wide boycott of the facility's owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd.

Unifor announced Sunday that it would be launching a national boycott campaign with ads on TV, radio and billboards, and that there will be pickets at Co-op's retail locations across Canada.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says in a news release that the union wants local co-ops that own Federated Co-op to "speak out to the FCL board and use their power" to end the lockout.

The union says its TV ad will air at prime time in Western Canada, including during the men's World Junior Hockey Championships over the holidays.

"If Co-op wants to hit refinery workers with a lockout, it's time to hit Co-op where it hurts," Dias said in the release.

FCL responded to the announcement with a news release that called Unifor a "Toronto-based union" that "simply doesn't understand the refining industry or the Western Canadian economy."

"Over the past week, Unifor has demonstrated that they have no respect for the hard-working truck drivers who haul fuel from our refinery and no respect for Western Canadian farmers who need fuel to dry and haul their grain during a very difficult crop year," said the company's statement.

Management said earlier this month that they were flying replacement staff into the refinery by helicopter, claiming that employees who have crossed the picket line have been verbally harassed and food shipments for management have been held up.  

The union responded that the move was an attempt to distract attention from the unsafe operation of the refinery.

More than 700 employees were locked out on Dec. 5 after Unifor issued a strike notice in a dispute where pensions are a key issue.

The workers' last contract expired in February. The union declared an impasse in contract negotiations in September, which led to the appointment of a mediator.

Federated Co-operatives Limited is owned by more than 190 independent retail co-operatives in Western Canada, operating agro centres, food stores, gas bars, convenience stores and home centres.

The union claims the refinery in Regina clears $3-million a day when its members are working.

"Co-op senior leadership is abandoning the principles that attracted Canadians to become members. Now, Canadians deserve to know the unbridled corporate greed that FCL represents today," Scott Doherty, Unifor's lead negotiator said in the news release.

Meanwhile, FCL notes local co-ops across the West have invested billions in expanding the refinery's operation over the past decade, creating new jobs and economic growth.

It says they've offered the union a wage increase and are only asking that employees pay into their pension like most other Canadians.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2019.

The Canadian Press



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