Unifor 594 begins lockout with rally outside Co-op Refinery Complex

A lockout at the Co-op Refinery Complex began Thursday night as Unifor 594 workers staged a rally outside of the refinery.

The union says they are fighting to protect their pension benefits and not give in to concessions the company is wanting workers to take in their new deal.

594 President Kevin Bittman said this kind of solidarity is not common.

“These people are ready to go, they’re tired of their employer, and they just want to be respected,” Bittman said. “The company has put a deal on the table that disrespects these workers, and they’re tired and they’re going to fight for their pension.”

Bittman said this comes after a promise was made three years ago to not interfere with worker pensions.

“Now, three years later, they’re telling us that they want to take it away, and that’s not fair,” Bittman said. “We gave them major concessions and since those concessions, concessions, they made $2.5 Billion, that’s a lot of money, and the last two years have been record profits, and they’re saying they need more, and that’s greedy.”

Bittman said Unifor employees have been doing these jobs for years.

“It takes years and years of training and experience to do these jobs properly,” Bittman said. “They’re replacing 285 highly-skilled people with 105 people, and half of them don’t have any experience at all.

“They can say that they’re highly trained and skilled but they’re not, and there’s only one proven way to run the Co=op refinery and that’s with 594 workers.”

Co-op vice president of refinery operations Gil Le Dressay says in a news release he is disappointed the union is not returning to the table at this time. Le Dressay says the company is offering 11,75% over four years, and offering the same pension as before or switching to a defined contribution pension which is similar to the best in the industry.

More from 620 CKRM