When the union Unifor issued a strike notice for their 700 workers at the Co-op Refinery in Regina, a protracted labour dispute began that led to the workers being locked out, and things have escalated from there.
For most people, the dispute didn’t really relate to them, unless they had friends or family who worked at the refinery, or who are now working there as a replacement worker.
Not wanting to keep the strike as a purely local dispute, Unifor decided to go big and put out a campaign with TV ads, claiming that Federated Co-operatives was reneging on the workers pensions.
They began to ask consumers to boycott the Co-op as a retailer, and then on Monday, they escalated the fight yet more by taking the strike on the road, as it were, first bringing it to Weyburn’s Crossroads facility operated by Prairie Sky Co-op at the intersection of Highways 13 and 39.
No one would dispute that workers have the right to strike in Saskatchewan, but the union seems not to care about crossing the line to an area where they are going to lose any public support they might’ve had to this point.
When they brought the strike to the Crossroads location, ostensibly it was to be an “information picket”, according to a news release put out by Unifor, to inform the residents of Saskatchewan about the issues, and to promote their campaign to encourage people to boycott Co-op products.
What it became was an unfair disruption of business at a property that does not employ anyone in the Unifor union, including forcing a business that is not owned or operated by Co-op in any form, the Main Track Cafe restaurant.
The union put a fence up around the entire perimeter of the property, shutting off any access not only to the cardlock, but also to the gas station and C-store, and Main Track. Any trucker who had been shut in was let out, but no vehicles were allowed in, with large rented trucks and picketers blocking every entrance to the property.
Presumably the union wants to rally public support behind their cause as they go up against Federated Co-operatives Ltd. By escalating things with the ad campaign they are hoping that people will see their plight and support them — but in forcing their strike action on a retailer that only hurts the local market, not to mention the restaurant, just made a whole lot of people upset and angry. If anything, Unifor lost a whole lot of good will, if indeed they had any. Not only did truckers need the products sold there, but public services like City employees and school buses get their fuel there. What did they do to deserve this disruption? Perhaps Unifor should rethink their strategy and think about the people who live in the province.