Regina refinery workers give bargainers strike mandate to back contract talks

Regina refinery workers give bargainers strike mandate to back contract talks
REGINA— Hundreds of unionized workers at the Co-op refinery in Regina have voted more than 97 per cent 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 per cent of them turned out for Monday’s 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.”

The company said it is asking the union to choose between two pension options, but Bittman added that workers want to make that choice and for it to be respected.

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.

In an open letter recently shared on social media, the company said it’s offering workers a “fair deal” and is encouraging them to return to the table.

“Our deal includes large wage increases, a performance bonus plan and industry-leading pension options,” it reads.

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.
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