City of Regina inserts itself into Unifor, Co-op Refinery labour dispute

The city of Regina is echoing the same request as Unifor, by officially asking the government of Saskatchewan to impose binding arbitration to end the 147-day lockout at the Co-op Refinery.

“Enough is enough,” said Coun. John Findura.

In a 9-1 vote, Regina councillors endorsed the need for binding arbitration. The vote came one day after Unifor Local 594 voted 89 per cent against Co-op’s “best and final offer.”

The province previously appointed a special mediator, but after 20 days of meetings, Co-op rejected the recommendations.

READ MORE: Unifor rejects Co-op’s latest offer, calls on province to end labour dispute

“There’s been a misconception in the public that the provincial government can’t do anything else, which is untrue,” said Coun. Andrew Stevens, who introduced the motion to call on the province to fix the labour dispute.

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“There’s a long history of back to work legislation, and binding arbitration through special legislation in this province that withstood constitutional challenge.”

Council said they have received hundreds of emails since the lockout began, many from workers, truckers and businesses who have asked for this to end.

The dispute has also put pressure on the city’s police force. According to the Regina Police Service, the lockout has cost taxpayers a minimum of $110,000 since March. The number doesn’t reflect the cost of personnel who have had been assigned to patrol the refinery and picket lines.

“It’s a very much divisive issue, and it’s not an exaggeration to say how divisive this is,” Stevens said.

Although the city is calling on binding arbitration, the municipality doesn’t have any jurisdiction over the matter.

Mayor Michael Fougere — who voted against the endorsement — said the city cannot use its moral weight to effect change. He called the motion “symbolic at best.”

“We do not have jurisdiction in a private labour dispute. We have no levers at all,” Fougere said.

READ MORE: Labour dispute continues after Co-op Refinery rejects special mediator’s recommendations

Instead, Fougere suggested the city “strongly stay away from this” while having a general statement that urge both parties to get back to the table. But council didn’t agree.

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On Wednesday, Premier Scott Moe said during a press conference he would not call back legislature to impose binding arbitration.

“If that would be done it would be unprecedented is this province’s history, and I’m aware of very few cases, if any across Canada where that has actually occurred,” Moe said.

“This is a private sector labour dispute that is occurring.”

The premier did state the Minister of Justice has reached out to both sides to have discussions “with what the next steps are.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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