A dispute between Federated Co-op and unionized workers puts fuel in jeopardy

Rural communities caught in the middle

The member-owned Federated Co-operative is in a tangle with unionized workers. Now politicians are getting involved.

Earlier this week, on their Facebook page Valleyview Consumers Co-op put a daily limit on cardlock customers, rationing gas purchases to 100 L of gasoline and 300 L. of diesel fuel. This ration is imposed throughout the Prairie Provinces.

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Asked about the C-store gas, Valleyview Co-op general manager Greg Gill says “If things don’t change, I’m going to be out of fuel in the next 48 – 72 hours.”

This is a result of the unionized refinery plant workers, represented by UNIFOR, striking over a list of complaints and illegally blockading, preventing truckers from transporting fuel.

Gill explained the sustainability of the refinery, and an adjustment to what appears to be a healthy pension for refinery workers, is at stake.

But UNIFOR, in a Dec. 2019 document www.unifor594.com/internal-sustainability questions money spending practices, among other things, in the management of the refinery.

Gill explained that truck drivers, on contract with Federated’s refinery to haul fuel, cannot. That’s why there’s no fuel being delivered to Valleyview’s cardlocks, or to the C-Store.

He said there has been two court injunctions against the blockades, to allow truckers access to the terminals.

“What has happened now is that UNIFOR has blockaded all distribution points. Illegal blockades, by the way. This affects a lot of people,” says Gill, “If they aren’t hauling fuel, they aren’t making money. They’re out of pocket.”

“It’s right down to the retails now because if we have no fuel, we can’t sell it. It impacts the members.”

Lingering bad weather delayed harvest and the usual fall work on fields did not happen. “Our biggest fear at the moment - we had no fall in the ag sector. We are predicting a huge demand on diesel this spring.” says Gill.

Court injunctions say picketers can only reasonably delay people, long enough to get their message out.

In a press release MP for Brandon-Souris, Larry Maguire says that despite court injunctions, UNIFOR is continuing their illegal blockades and one of their union leaders went as far as saying, “no trucks are getting in and I don’t care how many cops they send.”

During Question Period, Maguire, asked the government to defend the rule of law and to ensure a reliable fuel supply for rural communities. Maguire informed Parliament of the union’s latest actions and how they are ignoring court injunctions.  He also spoke about the intimidation tactics being used, after it was reported that some Co-op manager’s private homes were paintballed.

“The illegal UNIFOR blockades at gas depots and intimidation tactics, such as paintballing people’s homes has gone too far,” said Maguire. “It is well within the rights of Canadians to engage in labour action, but in no uncertain terms should illegal actions be condoned.”

MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa Dan Mazier, said, “Many communities in my constituency are solely serviced by Federated Co-ops. The illegal actions by UNIFOR and its members are having a direct impact on our mobility as a community and a region.”

Meanwhile, a UNIFOR document claims, “The Company has outsourced strategy and undertaken partnerships that make us vulnerable like everyone else. They are no longer capable of thinking for themselves and doing what’s best for the workers, Co-op, and FCL as a whole.”


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