Written by Ronni Nordal, Q.C., Regina
Consumer’s Co-op Refineries Limited (CCRL) locked out members of Unifor Local 594 on December 5, 2019. As I wrote in my March 11, 2020 post Is there a Right to Picket in Saskatchewan, CCRL’s ability to obtain an interim injunction, and ultimately to have Unifor Local 594 held in contempt of the injunction has substantially interfered with the Charter rights of Unifor Local 594 members to engage in picket activities for the purpose of collective bargaining. The lockout continues because CCRL rejected the recommendations of government appointed mediator Vince Ready and has, in fact, indicated it now requires further concessions from Unifor Local 594.
The December 29, 2019 Order places specific limits on Unifor Local 594’s ability to impede ingress/egress from 5 civic addresses in the City of Regina and from one facility in the R.M. of Sherwood (see paragraph 9 of February 12, 2020 contempt decision, Robertson J).
Without the ability to exert economic pressure through meaningful picketing at the CCRL site in Regina – members of Unifor Local 594 attempted to exercise the Charter protected right to picket by setting up a picket line at the Co-op Bulk Fuel site in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan starting Wednesday May 7, 2020, a location not covered by the Order.
However, the RCMP attended at the Co-op Bulk Fuel site in Moose jaw today and told Unifor Local 594 members they were carrying out a mischief investigation and that if individuals on the picket line did not provide identification they would potentially be charged with obstruction.
The picket line continued and Unifor Local 594 members were stopping vehicles for up to 30 minutes from entering the Moose Jaw site and communicating during picketing. On Friday, May 8, 2020 the RCMP attended and advised that if entry to the Moose Jaw premises was obstructed, charges would be laid and the picketers would be arrested.
At the Moose Jaw site the morning of Friday, May 8, 2020, an RCMP officer directed the picketers as follows:
Basically if trucks come in and you want to talk to the driver – to have a little chat with him, should not have a problem – but you cannot stop them from entering the premises. We have consulted with Crown Counsel and what you have been doing for the past 2 days has been the threshold for a charge of mischief.
It appears that as of May 8, 2020 the CCRL can continue its operation with its replacement worker onsite camp while it has been declared illegal for Unifor Local 594 members to exercise any meaningful right to picket. The right to picket in Saskatchewan has been reduced to standing on the side of the road and waving to passersby, unless a driver voluntarily elects to stop and talk to the locked out workers. The cycle is complete, the law protects the right of the employer to set up a work camp to house replacement workers during a pandemic while using its full force to ensure picketing has no effect on the employer’s operations. The 2015 Supreme Court of Canada Labour Trilogy was seen as a milestone event for all workers in Canada —— who would have thought it would all be down hill from there.
Ronni Nordal, “Right to Picket All But Dead in Saskatchewan: RCMP Moves In to Protect Co-Op in Protracted Lockout” Canadian Law of Work (May 8 2020): https://lawofwork.ca/?p=12467