Letters to the editor – May 28, 2020

FCL acting badly in refinery dispute

I was once a dedicated and loyal member of our local co-op — for 40 years our farm fuel and supplies were purchased there. But no more will I spend one penny there until they show some decency and respect for the oil and gas workers that they have locked out of the Co-op oil refinery.

Those workers for years have run that refinery and have made it a very profitable part of Federated Co-op — $3 million a day in fact, profits that subsidize small town co-ops.

Federated Co-op’s failure to bargain in good faith has been a disgrace. I am ashamed to be a part of any organization that would treat its workers in such a dishonest manner.

The money they have spent on billboards and radio and television advertising to turn people against the workers has been despicable.

The money spent on building their scab camp, which was going on long before the lockout, shows they had no plans to bargain at the table for a fair and acceptable contract with their workers.

The money spent using helicopters to fly workers and supplies in past the picket lines was nothing but a display of their might and power in efforts to intimidate union workers.

The list goes on and on — of money spent in trying to break this union, money that could have been better spent on the contentious issues involving pension plans, which this whole dispute revolves around.

The government-appointed mediator’s recommendation should have ended this labor dispute. Unifor 594 members voted 98 percent in favour of accepting the mediator’s recommendations, even though it meant rollbacks and concessions that they were willing to take to resolve the dispute. This would have given the Co-op a $20 million a year saving. But (FCL chief executive officer) Scott Banda and his lieutenants would rather stick it to these workers, causing more stress and hardship for them and their families.

Now Unifor has said disrupting the flow of fuel to famers during seeding is their only option to try and pressure FCL to come to its senses. They are fighting for their economic survival.

Let’s put an end to this before there is violence and bloodshed, or maybe that is what FCL wants? Premier Moe needs to step in and stop this and take the mediator’s recommendations — who he appointed — and tell FCL to act like any responsible corporate citizen would, and end the lockout. It’s time FCL put their big boy pants on and show some moral responsibilities.

And what about our local co-op boards? Maybe it’s time they get their heads out of the sand and show some leadership rather than march to Scott Banda’s tune. This lockout and the fiasco that has erupted with Calgary Co-op is wasting millions of dollars of co-op members’ dividends and may well bring the once proud FCL to the same fate as Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, another co-operative movement which is now nothing but a chapter in the history books.

Lynnel Person

Preeceville, Sask.

More and smaller packing plants needed

The recent closures of meat packing plants in Alberta, Quebec and several American states due to the COVID-19 pandemic are shedding light on the tremendous expense of this style of massive meat processing operation. 

The expense borne by the workers at the plants is the greatest of all, their health threatened so severely, even causing death to two Cargill workers in Alberta.

However, the expense doesn’t stop there as consumers are expected to see meat prices jump. Farmers have seen the prices paid for their animals drop by more than 30 percent and taxpayers will ultimately pay the price to help bail out this sector. 

Several decades ago when the move to close smaller slaughterhouses in favour of building huge single entity plants was happening, the rationale was that there were going to be tremendous efficiencies in doing this.

National Farmers Union studies showed that the promised efficiencies of consumers seeing cheaper meat and farmers making a decent living simply did not materialize. The spread between what famers are paid for their animals and what consumers pay for meat has grown. 

The working conditions at the plants with thousands of animals being slaughtered each day are stressful at the best of times and downright dangerous now. Farmers suddenly have nowhere to sell their animals and consumers are starting to see less meat on the shelves.

Now is the time to look at how we can build a meat processing system that will not cause these massive problems. A move to build smaller, safer slaughter plants in each province would help to disperse the threats to food security. We could assure meat supply from local farms to meet local demands. If one plant was forced to close, it would not disrupt the food chain across the entire country.

Providing safe secure food from local farms to local consumers is entirely possible without putting meat-packing workers at risk. Surely we’ve learned that bigger is not always better.

Vicki Burns, Winnipeg
Fred Tait, Rossendale, Man. 

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