The union representing hundreds of workers at the Co-op Refinery Complex has voted against what the company has called its final offer.
Unifor 594 voted “overwhelmingly” to reject the offer on Monday night, according to president Kevin Bittman.
He revealed the provincially-appointed mediator had checked out of negotiations on March 16, triggering a mandated 14-day cooling off period from both the union and refinery.
That period expires on March 30, meaning if a deal still isn’t reached either side can issue a 48-hour strike or lockout notice, which could impact 800 workers.
The refinery called the rejection vote “disappointing”, but admitted it wasn’t something the company was unprepared for. On March 8, about 50 bunkhouse trailers were brought in for the potential of a labour disruption.
The city confirmed a temporary housing permit was issued. The refinery said that permit was received on March 17, believing it to be an open permit with no immediate end date.
While the company said it’s still willing to talk, it stands by its latest offer being its last one.
“We’ve gone as far as we can go and we’ve made that very clear,” said Vic Huard, Co-op’s executive vice-president.
The union called it a tactic and said there are too many concessions in that offer, simply wanting workers to get the status quo.
Unifor has also raised concerns regarding the safety of temporary workers that are brought in by the company, should it come to that.
But Huard pointed out workers are already there 24 hours a day every day. He said air monitoring and testing is done, which the company said it’s completely confident in. Huard added they’ve done their due diligence as to the placement of the work camp to ensure safety.
If a labour disruption does hit, Huard said production would decrease to ensure safe operations. However, the refinery clarified it is confident fuel supply would be maintained to its retail system, especially for its rural customers as spring seeding approaches.