Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) announced yesterday that it is “committed to providing financial relief to all of the independent lease-operated truckers contracted by FCL whose livelihoods have been negatively impacted by Unifor’s illegal blockades of the Co-op Refinery Complex (CRC) and other FCL sites.”
Scott Banda, FCL’s CEO, said, “We value the perseverance and support of all our independent trucking fleet partners and we recognize how badly Unifor’s illegal blockades hurt them. Unifor’s illegal actions have negatively affected their individual well-being and that of their families, so we’re doing all we can to help them.”
In the announcement, FCL noted that it will provide cash payments to help support independent lease operators who have lost income opportunities as a result of Unifor’s illegal blockades in the labor disruption. The payments are said to be approximately 75% of the drivers’ normal pay. The payment will be applied retroactively to lease operators in Regina, and also extended to lease operators in Carseland, Alberta, and Winnipeg.
Both sides agree that the skilled fuel-haulers are caught in the middle. While mediation recently began again on Feb. 18, FCL is making the announcement and taking action, “in the hopes of easing some of the financial burdens on the operators.”
“It’s a tough situation for the truckers,” acknowledged Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594. At the same time, Bittman has been unapologetic about Unifor’s hard line in the pension dispute, as Nate Tabak previously reported.
“The last two months have been difficult for both small and large independent lease operators. The men and women who join the trucking industry, and particularly the fuel transportation sector, are vitally aware of our responsibilities to the public and the essential role we play in maintaining Canadians’ way of life,” said Heather Day, President of C.S. Day Transport and member of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association’s Board of Directors.
C.S. Day Transport is the largest fuel hauler among the group. The company lost more than C$500,000 in revenue in January alone.
“We just want to get all the guys back to work,” Day told FreightWaves in early February.
“We’re very appreciative that FCL and the CRC [Co-op Refinery Complex] recognize the hardships that we have endured during this labor disruption. The lease operators, drivers and our other staff take immense pride in helping to fuel Western Canada and are wholly committed to ensuring fuel is delivered across the West,” said Day.
The cash payments will assist approximately 40 lease-operated trucking companies, encompassing nearly 160 trucks and around 300 drivers.
Premier Scott Moe and Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili have each weighed in on the labor dispute between the CRC in Regina and locked-out Unifor workers. Both encouraged the two sides to come back to the bargaining table.
“This ongoing and escalating conflict is causing problems for the workers, for that business, for the economy in Regina and the province,” Meili told reporters in Saskatoon in late January.
“It’s causing folks to have concerns about safety when we’re talking about such an important and high-level facility,” Meili said.
Tensions escalated in late January when dozens of Regina Police Service members were dispatched to the scene and arrested union members for mischief.
Some have argued that the Regina Police Service‘s role is to keep tensions from escalating. Others have also claimed the police weren’t doing enough by not forcibly removing the “illegal barricade.”