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Government appoints special mediator in Regina oil refinery labour dispute

Pensions are the main sticking point in the contract fight


February 12, 2020
By The Canadian Press

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Federated Cooperatives in Regina. Photo: Google Streetview

The Saskatchewan government has appointed a special mediator in a contract dispute that has dragged on more for more than two months at a Regina oil refinery.

Labour Minister Don Morgan says veteran arbitrator Vince Ready will try to help the refinery owner and the union for about 700 workers reach an agreement.

Federated Co-operatives Ltd. locked out workers Dec. 5 when Unifor Local 594 issued strike notice.

Main sticking point: Pensions

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Pensions are the main sticking point in the contract fight.

Ready, who has worked in labour relations for about 55 years, is to being his work next Tuesday.

Morgan says it is in the interest of both parties to negotiate a contract at the bargaining table.

“We are appointing a special mediator to help resolve the impasse because of the impact of the dispute on Saskatchewan families, communities and businesses,” he said in a news release Wednesday.

The company has said Unifor’s barricades at the Co-op refinery site have led to gasoline shortages in some communities because trucks hauling fuel haven’t been able to get in or out.

Charges against union members

A number of union members face charges of mischief and of disobeying a court injunction that forbid workers from preventing access to the plant.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said last week that he would be willing to appoint a special mediator if the barricades came down.

The release says Ready will recommend terms for an agreement if the two sides can’t reach a deal within 20 days.

“We have had success with the appointment of a special mediator in past disputes and are hopeful that the outstanding issues between the parties can be resolved with the assistance of Mr. Ready,” Morgan said.

Ready was involved in trying to find a solution in a prolonged forestry strike on Vancouver Island going back to July. A tentative deal was reached this week.

He was part of negotiations in the 2014 teachers strike in British Columbia and published a binding report resolving a stalemate between B.C. Ferries and its employees union in 2007.

He also resolved a violent dispute at the Giant gold mine in Yellowknife in 1992. That strike resulted in the deaths of nine workers in a mine explosion. Miner Roger Warren was convicted of setting up the blast.