Unifor president speaks out following Monday arrest

President of Unifor National Jerry Dias has announced their members are going to start the escalation of boycotting Co-op gas stations and stores.

This comes after Regina police arrested him at the picket line Monday evening in Regina along with several others.

At a media gathering on Tuesday morning, Dias told reporters that the sole purpose of police officers at the picket line on Monday was to “escalate the situation”, adding police were acting in an incredibly aggressive manner towards Unifor members.

Describing the confrontation between picketers, Dias said he is very upset with the actions of Regina police and that they crossed the line.

“I’ve never seen a police department in any city in this country behave the way the Regina police did last night,” stated Dias. “I have been walking picket lines for over 40 years, and there is one common rule among police – to make sure situations do not escalate.”

“The police were so aggressive they were saying to women at the picket line ‘get out of the way or I will push you’, and they proceeded to do just that.”

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Dias added that he stayed in a cell at the police station for seven hours before he was able to leave. 14 people were charged with mischief; Dias is also not allowed within 500 metres of the Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina.

His court date has been set for Feb. 26 at the provincial courthouse.

‘We are not going anywhere’

Dias is now calling on Regina mayor Michael Fougere to get directly involved in this situation, saying police cannot act like thugs.

“Frankly, the statement backfired because all they did was show to this community and everybody across this country they were picking on the union and they were trying to make an example out of me,” said Dias.

“If they think that’s going to weaken my resolve, boy they blew that because I’m more determined today than I’ve ever been.”

As tensions continue to grow between all parties involved, Dias is urging Reginans and residents across Saskatchewan to join workers in boycotting Co-op businesses, and to help workers win a collective agreement.

“Since the arrests last night, our members are flying in from across the country in droves to get here to Regina because they are not going to watch the police bully and push around our members from Local 594 and our members from other provinces.”

When asked what workers are getting paid to fly in to the provincial capital, the union president said they are getting paid their lost wages.

Another Rally for Unifor

All of the arrests Monday night did not deter Unifor from holding another rally outside of the Co-op Refinery Complex on Tuesday.

Lead negotiator Scott Doherty said the police are supposed to keep the peace, something they didn’t do Monday night.

“Their intent was to come in and try and force us to move off of this picket line and arrest people,” Doherty said. “Clearly, we’re not going to that. We’re not going to put up with bully-tactics; we’re here in a legal picket line, and if they want to have a conversation with us, which we met with the chief (Evan Bray) weeks ago and said ‘let’s have conversations,’ that didn’t take place (Monday) and it hasn’t taken place since we met with him.”

Doherty said no vehicles will be allowed into the facility unless there is an emergency.

“I also want to point out the fact that (their accusations were) a complete and out-right lie that somehow they had to cut the locks or remove anything to get the ambulance in (Monday) night,” Doherty said. “The path was completely clear, the ERT gate was completely clear, the ambulance and police went in without any resistance.

“In fact, there wasn’t even a picketer anywhere around there.”

Unifor national secretary Lana Payne said the police should be aware of one thing: “This will only strengthen the resolve of our members.

“When you see that kind of escalation of tactics by the police in that kind of fashion that rapidly — I’ve been on a lot of picket lines in my lifetime, all of us have, and usually the role of the police is to try and deescalate tensions. That’s not what they did (Monday) night.”

Other unions from across Saskatchewan took part in Tuesday’s rally. Also in attendance was Lori Johb from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, and Warren “Smokey” Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union.

{Files from Moises Canales and Ryan McNally}

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