Co-op refinery strike could start on Thursday afternoon

REGINA — Union workers at the Regina Co-op Refinery could be on strike by 4:30 p.m. on Thursday if no deal is worked out between the company and employees.

Meanwhile, the refinery is in a position to lock workers out by 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The strike notice was served on Tuesday, followed by the lockout notice.

“We had to make a decision to do something, and if the company needed us to be the bad person and issue job action notice for them to lock us out like they want to, then so be it,” Kevin Bittman, the president of Unifor 594 who represents the workers, said.

On Thursday afternoon, members can begin picketing and striking on rotation if no deal is made.

One hour later, a lockout would begin, meaning union members can no longer be on the property.

“From a repair reliability and from a safety point of view, you know who’s there to respond and who’s there to actually maintain the operation of the facility,” Gil Le Dressay, the vice-president of refinery operations, said. “That’s why the lockout notice is served on a strike notice. We had no intention of serving lockout notice in the month of December.”

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Both sides say they remain open to talking and working out a deal.

Managers have been trained to keep the plant running, along with temporary workers who will be staying at camps on site, and will be prepared to take over on Thursday.

Dressay says the company has firefighting crews that can respond to emergency in about ten minutes, but with temporary work camps on site, it means firefighters will also be on site at all times, so response times would be slower.

Sean Tucker, an occupational health and safety professor at the University of Regina, said a smaller crew working the plant could be a cause of concern.

“Overtime, the longer the lockout goes, the more fatigue will set in,” Tucker said. “Fatigue can really undermine safety in the safety sense of a plant like in a refinery.”

He added that Regina residents should be worried, because he believes temporary workers won’t be able to react to issues like a regular worker would.

He said Sherwood Co-op members, other members of the public and community leaders should reach out to both parties.

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