01/20/2020 20:31 EST | Updated 01/20/2020 20:33 EST

Unifor President Jerry Dias Arrested Amid Union Protest Against Regina Oil Refinery

Unifor is the largest private sector union in Canada.

Roberto Machado Noa via Getty Images
Jerry Dias addresses the members of Unifor right before the Toronto Labour Day Parade on Sept. 3, 2018.

REGINA — A union representing more than 700 workers in a contract dispute at the Co-op oil refinery tried to shut down the Regina facility Monday as police made arrests.

Unifor posted a video on Twitter late in the afternoon showing officers taking the union’s national president, Jerry Dias, and western regional director, Gavin McGarrigle, into custody.

Dias said earlier in the day that managers and replacement workers were being allowed to leave the refinery, but the union was going to stop fuel from being transported out of the complex.

“We’re not allowing any trucks in,” Dias said. “We’re going to shut (the refinery) down until they come back to the bargaining table.”

Workers on the picket line successfully blocked a bus filled with replacement staff and managers from entering the refinery, Dias said, and allowed six trucks to leave.

“Those six trucks are never going back in until this dispute is settled,” he said.

Co-op said the union is violating a court injunction if it blocks entrance points and called the move a bullying tactic.

It said it was “exploring all legal options.”

Throughout the day, police asked drivers to avoid the area. They said it’s up to both sides to avoid an escalation.

“Police involvement should be a last resort,” read a statement posted to the police service’s Twitter account.

“Unifor members have a right to picket; Co-op has a right to conduct business.”

Last month, a judge ruled the union could stop vehicles trying to get in and out of the refinery for a maximum of 10 minutes, so as to provide information on the dispute or until a driver declines the information.

Dias said the blockades don’t violate the court order.

“The court injunction was against Unifor Local 594 ... this is being done by the national union and the bodies that we have parachuted into the province.”

Unifor said hundreds of members from across Canada have come to the site to support the refinery workers.

Workers at the refinery were locked out in early December after the union voted in favour of a strike and issued a notice. The union has launched a national boycott of the facility’s owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., and picketed at Co-op retailers in Western Canada.

One of the main issues in the labour dispute is pensions.

The workers’ last contract expired in February. The union declared an impasse in contract negotiations in September, which led to the appointment of a mediator.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020

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