Open Letter to Local Co-op Boards from Jerry Dias
Dear local co-operative board,
On behalf of the 315,000 members of Unifor, thousands of whom are Co-op members, I’m writing to express extreme disappointment in your FCL leadership for keeping refinery workers locked out in Regina.
Nearly 800 highly skilled workers of Unifor Local 594 have been locked out in frigid temperatures for simply defending the status quo on their pension plan—a pension explicitly promised to them three years ago by FCL Vice President Vic Huard:
“To be perfectly clear, every single employee who currently is in the defined benefits plan will remain in that plan from now until when they retire.” (March 2017)
I can assure you that Local 594’s bargaining proposals are in keeping with the industry norms, as evidenced by the adoption of the same collective agreement over the last 12 months by 29 other energy workplaces represented by Unifor.
In a show of good faith earlier this week, Local 594’s bargaining committee adjusted their position on two proposals that FCL executives insisted were pre-conditions to further negotiations.
We were shocked to hear from FCL negotiators that, despite earlier public statements, the company now demanded further concessions before it would even come back to the table.
Unifor members and the hundreds of supporters that have joined our picket lines over the last 72 hours can only conclude that the rogue executives at FCL have no interest in resolving the dispute that is hurting working families.
I have another message for you as a leader in your local co-operative: you have a role in ending this labour dispute.
Your Federated Co-op is massively profitable, and I appreciate that those profits are returned, in part, to co-ops like yours.
But make no mistake: gutting the pensions of the women and men that work in dangerous conditions to make your profits is a deeply unethical way to conduct business, and a heartless violation of the principles that built your co-op.
The “bargaining” tactics of rogue FCL executives are doing irreversible damage to the FCL brand, and I can make no assurances that the customers Unifor has driven to your competitors in recent weeks will ever come back.
Co-op Refinery workers simply want the status quo with their pension (as Huard promised) and the industry standard collective agreement enjoyed by energy workers doing the same jobs elsewhere in Canada.
I encourage you to reach out to the leadership of FCL and urge them to get back to the table and negotiate a fair collective agreement before things escalate further. A fair deal for refinery workers will benefit all local co-ops.