Regina, SK — The owner of a trucking company says striking workers at Regina’s Co-op refinery are violating a court injunction that restricts how long pickets can block trucks entering and leaving the facility.
Justice Janet McMurtry ruled on Dec. 24 that the union could stop vehicles trying to get in and out of the refinery for a maximum of ten minutes to provide information on the dispute or until the driver declines the information.
At that point, McMurtry’s ruling says, drivers should be allowed to “proceed without interference.”
But Justin Wright, who owns Lowridin’ Carriers Ltd., told CJME radio the injunction isn’t being followed by the picketers, even when his drivers bring a copy of the order with them.
Videos sent to Regina media outlets appear to show drivers who decline the information being held up for a full ten minutes.
Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman says he hasn’t seen drivers being held up, but says the union interprets the order as meaning pickets have ten minutes to communicate with drivers.
“For us, we see part of that order as we have ten minutes to communicate with them and so that’s what we’re doing,” Bittman said.
Wright, however, said every driver is having the problem and it’s frustrating.
“My drivers, they’re not against Unifor, they just want to cross and do their job. And the injunction is set in place that they are allowed to cross if they don’t want to listen to the information,” Wright said.
“As a third party with my own contract, I have no say in this. I have no vote at the table I don’t even get to go to the table. I’m just trying to do my contractual duties and I feel like I’m being used as a pawn.”
More than 700 refinery workers have been locked out since the start of December, after Unifor issued a strike notice. Pensions are a key issue in the contract dispute.
When seeking the injunction, Federated Co-operatives Limited told court that picketers have been blocking access to the refinery complex and intimidating replacement workers, contractors and suppliers.
The union’s lawyer questioned the allegations of unlawful conduct. The lawyer also argued that the “right to picket is meaningless” if replacement workers have free access to the worksite, because there’s no economic pressure on the company.
In a statement Tuesday, the company said it was pleased with the injunction because it meant Unifor picketers should no longer be allowed to cause long delays.
“The (Co-op Refinery Complex) expects that Unifor will be respectful of the Justice’s ruling,” the statement said.