Scott Banda, the CEO of Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), visited the community of Carseland, southeast of Calgary, Wednesday as a blockade continued to restrict access to a fuel terminal.
Union members have been on the picket line for nearly two weeks, setting up metal fences and blocking all access with large moving trucks. They are fighting to keep their pension pay and worker rights.
FCL released a letter on Nov. 30, 2019 stating that they are committed to a fair deal. The company said its unionized workers, on average, earn a base wage of $104,000 per year, an amount that rises to $123,000 with overtime.
"In our proposed deal to Unifor, we are offering a wage increase of 11.75% over four years," reads the letter.
Executive members of Federated Co-op Ltd. (FCL) are asking Calgary courts to approve an injunction to remove union barricades at the Carseland Cardlock. A decision is expected to come down Thursday morning.
FCL is hoping to see the blockade, which they call illegal, come down.
Banda addressed reporters earlier this week in Regina calling for Unifor to remove the blockades. "Unifor, I’m calling on you to end these illegal blockades and get back to the bargaining table for as long as it takes to get our people back to work."
More than 750 union workers were locked out of Regina’s refinery plant on Dec. 5, 2019.
The dispute, which has spilled into Alberta, saw both sides return to the bargaining table last Friday. FCL says talks broke down after 12 hours.
Local farmers and ranchers were allowed into the cardlock terminal on Sunday after union members temporarily moved the fences to allow them access to fill up.
When asked why this labour dispute has spilled over to Carseland, Banda blamed Unifor.
"Unifor made the decision to bring this to Alberta," said Banda. "We have been open to return to the table right from the start."
Unifor spokesperson Derek Emperingham disagreed.
"The FCL board has no interest in going back to the table," he said.
Local farmer Colleen Ballard said she understood union workers standing up for their rights, but wanted them to know the impact their blockades are having on the community.
"Our tanks are getting near empty, we need to get them filled up for spring," said Ballard.
"I understand their plight, but at the same time, they're not understanding our plight."
Emperinham said their message was being heard, adding that many locals support what they're doing.
"We know what it's like to have your lives disrupted," he said. "And we do not wish that on the locals around here."
The FCL said their gas stations and cardlock will soon see fuel shortages.
"We run through 550-600 million litres through Carseland," said Banda. "There will be outages today, tomorrow, they've started already."
Ballard said there was a simple solution available to all parties.
"It would be nice," she said, "if everyone could sit at the table and talk like adults and have this solved."