REGINA — A lawyer for a Saskatchewan oil refinery in a labour dispute says a court-ordered injunction is the only relief against what it calls serious misconduct by the union on the picket lines.
Eileen Libby says pickets with Unifor Local 594 have been blockading access to the Co-op refinery complex in Regina and intimidating contractors, suppliers and employees.
“The union does not have a right, no matter what it says in arguments, to block the employer’s access to its own premises,” she argued in court Monday.
More than 700 refinery workers were locked out Dec. 5 after Unifor issued a strike notice in a contract dispute in which pensions are a key issue.
Last week, Justice Janet McMurtry put some restrictions on the union’s picketing until a full injunction hearing could be held.
Union lawyer Crystal Norbeck argued Monday that no restrictions on picketing are needed.
Libby summarized that the employer wants the union to stop engaging in what she said is illegal conduct on the picket lines.
She argued that union blockades have impeded the delivery of safety equipment and chemicals to the refinery, and have raised concerns about the ability of emergency vehicles to get through.
Court also heard that pickets have been blocking tanker trucks from exiting and entering the site for many hours.
Libby alleged union members have been hurling insults and harassing replacement workers and vehicle passengers.
As a result of the union blockades, Co-op brought in helicopters to transport goods and staff across picket lines, she said.
“Think about that for a moment: What a significant act that is,” she said.
“It’s expensive. It’s strange, but it was necessary.”
Unifor is calling for a national boycott of the facility’s owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., made up of more than 190 independent retail co-operatives in Western Canada, operating food stores, gas bars, convenience stores and home centres.
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.