(Resource News International) — Viterra’s estimated 650 unionized country
elevator operation and maintenance employees in Saskatchewan are planning to
initiate job action against the company within the next couple of
days if there is no new collective bargaining agreement reached.
“At a meeting held last week, an update on the whole
situation was provided to country operation and maintenance
representatives and after much consideration by those officials,
a decision was made to begin escalating job action against
Viterra on a gradual basis,” said Hugh Wagner, general secretary with the Grain Services Union (GSU), which represents the workers.
Wagner said the GSU has urged mediation meetings and are
still hopeful the company will agree to these meetings.
“We have indicated that if there is a prospect for a
settlement, we will give that due consideration,” he said.
“Frankly, however, the expression of those country operation and
maintenance delegates was that their patience with the company
was running out.”
The last thing the country operation and
maintenance workers want to do is disrupt grain handling
operations, he said.
“The farmers are our friends and neighbours and we are
sensitive to their needs, and while the union does not want to
drag them in to this dispute, Viterra has forced this hand,”
The contract impasse between Canada’s largest grain company and the GSU-represented employees at the company’s Regina head office also was continuing, with no
progress to date on that front either, Wagner said.
Union representatives have remained in contact
with the federal government’s appointed mediator, he said, but the
As for “business as usual” claims by the company, Wagner said
it was unlikely that this was the case.
Wagner also said the fact Viterra is advertising for
replacement workers to replace the employees on the picket line
is also a sign that it was not business as usual.
A Viterra spokesman, meanwhile, said there was nothing to
report or update at this time.
Maureen Fitzhenry, manager of media services for the
Canadian Wheat Board, said that the CWB has had no issues
or problems to date with the Viterra labour dispute.
She also indicated the CWB has heard about the promise by
the country operators to escalate action against Viterra, but
have also received assurances from company management that
everything will run smoothly.
“Viterra has informed the CWB that they have a plan in place
in case things do escalate, and the CWB is confident they will be
able to deal with it,” Fitzhenry said.
However, she also acknowledged that the CWB will be
assessing the situation as it moves forward.
Viterra, the new operating name for Saskatchewan Wheat Pool
after its acquisition of Agricore United, is in a contract
dispute with some 200 unionized employees at its headquarters and
as many as 650 grain elevator workers in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan workers voted in June to reject the
company’s last contract offer. Alberta and Manitoba members voted
85.5 per cent in favour of accepting the same offer made by Viterra. The
workers at Viterra’s head office in Regina began striking July 7.