Regina refinery workers give strike mandate to back contract talks
Vote follows mandatory mediation; Unifor says the company was continuing to demand pension ``rollbacks'' and other concessions.
REGINA — Hundreds of unionized workers at the Co-op refinery in Regina have voted more than 97% in favour of a strike to back contract demands.
The vote’s outcome is in response to the company’s attack on their pension plan, a statement from Unifor Local 594 said.
“They’re tired of the concessions and they’re not willing to go backwards,” president Kevin Bittman said Tuesday.
Unifor said its members who are employed at the refinery complex will keep the plant safe and profitable while its bargaining team contemplates its next steps.
Bittman said they represent about 720 members working there and 75% of them turned out for the Dec. 2 vote.
The vote comes after mandatory mediation ended Nov. 12, when Unifor said the company was continuing to demand pension “rollbacks” and other concessions.
“We’re not trying to be greedy here,” Bittman said. “We just want to keep what we have and for the company that’s not enough.”
Unifor declared an impasse in contract negotiations in September, which led to the appointment of a mediator.
“We’ve said to the company that we’re willing to sit down and bargain, but we’re not willing to sit down if the concessions are on the table,” Bittman said.
The company said Tuesday that it has not proposed a rollback or pay cut.
“Asking an employee to contribute to their own pension is not a wage rollback _ it’s still their money and they receive it as part of their retirement income in the future,” the statement said.
Co-op said it is disappointed that the union executive chose to pursue a strike vote.
“We do not need a labour dispute to get a deal, we just need a willing partner at the table to engage in meaningful talks that can bring us closer,” it said in a statement Tuesday.
The workers’ last contract expired in February, while the company reported in March that 2018 was a record year for earnings of nearly $1.1 billion from close to $10.7 billion in sales.