Viterra, GSU meet with mediator

Grain company Viterra and members of the Grain Services Union went back to talks Tuesday with a federally-appointed mediator with an eye toward ending a week-old labour dispute.

Almost 200 workers at the Regina head office of Canada’s largest grain handler have been picketing since July 7. GSU members working at Viterra have been without a contract since the end of January.

Another 613 maintenance and operations workers at many of the company’s Saskatchewan elevators have been on a “work to rule” schedule since the Regina staff went on strike.

“Give yourselves credit, because regardless of the outcome of today’s meeting, arriving at this point was no small feat,” GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner said in a memo to picketing workers Tuesday.

“Your bargaining committee and elected union executive members met last night to review the issues in dispute. Now we’ll have to wait and see what Viterra does to change their position and what takes place at the mediation meeting.”

However, Regina’s Leader Post quoted a Viterra spokesman on Tuesday as saying there had been “no progress to report” at the meeting between the union and company officials.

The newspaper also quoted GSU’s Wagner as confirming that a member of a GSU bargaining unit covering employees at Viterra’s former AgPro Grain elevators in Alberta and Manitoba had applied to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board for decertification of that bargaining unit.

Members of that unit had voted to accept the company’s offer for a new contract, while head office and Saskatchewan maintenance and operations units did not.

However, Wagner told the newspaper that members could not apply nor vote to decertify until the final three months of an agreement, meaning that if the AgPro workers approve a five-year contract with Viterra, they would be unable to decertify for another four and a half years.

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