Co-op refinery lockout prompts fuel restrictions

Co-op fuel customers in Manitoba should soon see their supply restored, says a Federated Co-operatives Ltd. official.

A steady convoy of B trains headed east this afternoon from the oil refinery in Regina to fill depleted fuel supplies in Winnipeg after Regina Police Service moved in to dismantle the Unifor blockade.

FCL locked out more than 700 unionized workers more than two months ago after they gave strike notice. Since then, the company has gone to court for injunctions to have the blockades removed.

Vic Huard, executive vice-president of customer experience and stakeholder engagement, said this afternoon that FCL is seeking an injunction in Winnipeg, where Unifor workers are blocking facilities owned by Shell and Imperial.

FCL uses those companies’ facilities to transload fuel.

“That’s a big market for us and they’re essentially out of fuel in Winnipeg,” Huard said.

Earlier, FCL imposed limits on its cardlock facilities, allowing customers a maximum of 300 litres of diesel and 100 litres of gasoline. This was to ensure that emergency vehicles had access to fuel.

Blockades at the transload facility in Carseland, Alta., are causing problems in that province. Typically, about 140 B trains a day would be moving out of Carseland.

“We haven’t moved a drop out of that terminal since Unifor illegally blocked it nine days ago,” he said.

A judge had granted an injunction there, but the union didn’t budge and the company was back in court Friday afternoon in Calgary.

Farmers have posted on social media that they are trying to haul grain but the limits make it difficult.

“We apologize for that,” Huard said, adding the company has lots of fuel but just can’t move it.

Unifor has called on the Saskatchewan government to appoint a mediator who can implement a binding settlement and said the workers could be back on the job on Monday if that happened.

The dispute has largely centred on pensions and has been nasty at times. Several union members, including national president Jerry Dias, were arrested.

Independent fuel haulers have complained of being detained too long while loading at the Regina refinery, as well as vandalism.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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