Regina Co-op Refinery workers vote almost unanimously to strike if necessary

Regina Co-op Refinery workers voted 97.3 per cent in favour of strike action, if necessary, as the union representing them said Tuesday its position on pensions has not changed since mediation broke down on Nov. 12.

“We are pleased but not surprised,” said Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594.

“Our members are justifiably frustrated. Morale is low. Nobody enjoys going to the job they love when Co-op continues to show such pettiness and contempt for their expertise and value.”

In an open letter on Nov. 30, Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) said it is offering two pension options: have employees contribute to the defined benefits pension plan or move employees to an “industry-leading” defined contribution plan.

The defined benefit pension plan is currently funded purely by the employer.

Unifor Local 594 said it wants to give employees the option to remain in the current defined benefit plan or switch to a defined contribution plan. The union has described FCL’s defined benefit offer as a “gutted” version of the original.

“The union is willing to make changes to pension liabilities but will not budge on pension security for every worker. At this time when Co-op is raking in billions in profit, anything less is an unnecessary concession,” said Scott Doherty, lead Unifor negotiator.

FCL maintains it is offering employees a fair deal, adding that its offer includes an 11.75 per cent compensation increase over four years. The union says they will not budge on pension security as the refinery “rakes in billions in profits.”

Temporary work camps have been set up at the Co-op Refinery to house temporary workers in the event of a strike.

Unifor represents about 800 Co-op Refinery employees in 21 job classifications. The union said they will continue to keep the refinery “safe and profitable” while the bargaining team considers what is next.

The union has not yet issued strike notice.

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