REGINA — Dozens of truckers with horns blaring drove their semis into downtown Regina on Thursday to protest an ongoing union blockade at the city’s Co-op oil refinery.
About 90 independent lease operators who transport fuel for the refinery are demanding Unifor remove its barricades.
Spokeswoman Heather Day said the public needs to know how the labour dispute between Unifor members and refinery owner Federated Co-op is affecting families and businesses.
“It’s been a very frustrating, stressful situation for the business owners and for our drivers,” she said. “It’s really concerning that they’re basically holding the Prairie provinces, especially, but all of Western Canada hostage by choking off the fuel supply.”
Day said 26 fuel transportation companies estimate they are down about $2.5 million in gross revenues since the barricades were put up in early December.
That’s when more than 700 refinery workers were locked out after the union issued strike notice.
Canadians should appreciate the importance of the trucking industry to move groceries and other important goods around, Day said.
“Basically if you got it, a truck brought it and all of those trucks need fuel to be able to move goods around. We’re landlocked.”
Some drivers couldn’t make it to the rally because refinery gates were locked behind them while they loaded fuel earlier in the day. Regina police said the situation was resolved peacefully and these truckers were able to leave.
Negotiations between the company and the union had resumed last week, but broke down Friday and Unifor re-erected its barricades.
Unifor, which says the company isn’t bargaining in good faith, rejected a recent proposal that included $20 million in pension savings for the company. Pensions are one of the key issues in the dispute.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has said he’s prepared to appoint a special mediator and that a negotiated settlement is the best option to end the lock out.
Unifor Local 594 dismissed that idea in an open letter posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“It has become clear that the only way to bring an end to this lockout is binding arbitration,” the union said.
“A significant source of Western Canada’s fuel supply now relies on (Moe) to get both parties to the table through an arbitration process to finally end this dispute. The community and the economy are waiting.” (CKRM, The Canadian Press)