Local refinery union president says: ‘We’re not hard liners’

Arbitration date pending in North Atlantic labour dispute

Jonathan Parsons jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca
Published on December 20, 2016

Come By Chance refinery

©TC Media file photo

COME BY CHANCE — The United Steelworkers (USW)) union, which represents workers at the North Atlantic refinery in Come By Chance, says it is committed to discussion and safety as the current labour dispute is awaiting an arbitration date.

North Atlantic Refining Ltd. (NARL) laid off 128 workers last month — 107 of which are represented by USW.

In an interview with TC Media Tuesday, USW 9316 local president Glenn Nolan said the employees and the union representatives are interested in seeing proper safety and maintenance at the refinery going forward.

Nolan says the union has simply discussed ways to save money, increase productivity and incentives for employees to retire, in previous discussions with North Atlantic.

“The union informed the company that the collective agreement gives all employees a right to be represented,” Nolan told TC Media.

Employees gave the union the directive to follow the collective agreement that was put in place about a year and a half ago, he added.

He says, if the employees decide on a new direction, the union will comply.

In response to North Atlantic’s statements on staying competitive within the industry, Nolan says all workers want that too, adding the salaries of workers at the Come By Chance’s refinery are equal to or less than other workers at refineries across Canada.

Employees around the province don’t want the refinery to shut down, he added.

He says in the United States, wages are comparable to the local refinery in Canadian dollars — in American dollars, U.S. work is more expensive.

“Do (they) want us to work for nothing?” said Nolan.

As for carbon taxes related to greenhouse gas emissions, he says the union agrees any new carbon tax is a burden to both the company and employees.

He says the company has already made changes to reduce emissions and the union has also previously met and corresponded with the provincial government to help achieve this.

They’ll be meeting with the province in the new year to further discuss this matter.

“The company has indicated that the refinery is in jeopardy of shutting down. That’s out of our control. Employees worked hard to get the company where we are today from increased production capacity, to improving safe operation to energy efficiency and more.”

He says it takes a lot of safety and maintenance to run the refinery and that is the main concern for employees in light of the layoffs, particularly for those who will be working at the facility in the future.

Nolan says the union simply wants more information regarding a plan for the safe operation of the plant going forward and a new take-off agreement for the site — which is an agreement between an oil buyer and producer regarding the sale of the resource.

In the meantime, workers that have been issued lay-off notices, as well as those who will stay, are under an immense amount of stress, says Nolan.

“Through (the workers’) emails and phone conversations — I’ve cried, I’ve got to say. A lot of people don’t know these stories but it’s pretty emotional.

“They’re phoning me, as president (of the union), and it’s hard on them emotionally … that’s about the hardest part of the job. And the company is not dealing with that (workers) are phoning their union (instead of their employer) and it shouldn’t be that way.”



Twitter: @jejparsons