Unifor barricades Co-op card lock in Saskatoon

Federated Co-op Ltd. (FCL) officials say they’re disappointed Unifor has barricaded a card lock location in Saskatoon, days before the two sides resume bargaining with a provincially-appointed mediator.

The barricades went up Friday morning at the company’s bulk terminal on Beam Road in Saskatoon’s north end.

READ MORE: Blockades being removed at Co-op refinery on 9th Avenue North: Regina police

Co-op said the union has erected fences around the facility.

“These latest antics are disappointing, but after everything Unifor has done, they’re unfortunately not surprising, said FCL CEO Scott Banda.

“We’re taking the appointment of a special mediator and the resumption of bargaining next week very seriously,” Banda said. “All we ask is that our union partners in this negotiation will do the same and end these illegal blockades.”

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Unifor said its members across the country will continue secondary picketing to promote a boycott of all Co-op retailers.

“Scott Banda has a well-earned reputation of being anti-worker, and has a long history of instigating contentious labour disputes, including prolonged job actions in Moose Jaw, Calgary, and now Regina,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a release.

“Co-operatives are meant to serve local members, not out-of-province scabs who are taking their earnings elsewhere.”

The two sides have been in a bitter contract dispute after Unifor issued a strike notice, prompting FCL to lock out employees at its Regina Co-op Refinery Complex on Dec. 5, 2019.

Unifor Local 594 has been fined twice after breaching court injunctions limiting picketers to delaying traffic in and out of the complex for no longer than 10 minutes.

The local was fined $100,000 the first time and $250,000 the second time.

READ MORE: Court finds Unifor Local 594 guilty of breaching injunction, no jail time issued

Unifor has barricaded Co-op’s fuel terminal in Carseland, Alta. A judge ordered it removed after Co-op sought an injunction against the union.

FCL said Unifor has also blocked its trucks from accessing third-party fuel terminals in Winnipeg and Prince George, B.C.

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On Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government-appointed Vince Ready to assist in negotiations between the two sides.

Ready has worked in labour relations since 1965 and arbitrated and or mediated more than 7,000 labour and commercial disputes in Canada.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan government appoints special mediator in Unifor, Co-op dispute

The parties and Ready will have 20 days to reach an agreement once meetings start.

Talks are scheduled to start on Feb. 18, but FCL said the latest actions by Unifor place those in jeopardy.

“When Premier Moe offered the assistance of a special mediator for bargaining, he was clear that it would only happen if illegal blockades were removed,” the company said in a statement to Global News.

“We’ve said all along that we can’t bargain while Unifor’s illegal blockades are in place. You can’t bargain when your business is being held hostage.”

Dias said they started secondary picketing after FCL brought in “new scab trailers” to the refinery complex.

“We have a great deal of confidence in mediator Vince Ready but our experience with FCL, and this latest stunt, gives us little confidence this employer’s willingness to bargain,” Dias said.

“We’ve seen too many tactics to prolong this dispute, but we will proceed in good faith and hope the mediation process will be a turning point.”

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Global News has reached out to the Saskatchewan government for comment, but had not yet heard back.

A division of Unifor represents some Global news employees.

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