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Gas rations lifted at Co-op cardlocks

Manitoba producers have been operating under fuel caps at Co-op cardlocks since early February

Producers will not have to worry about fuel caps the next time they fill up at a Co-op cardlock.

Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL) has lifted its restrictions on fuel volumes a week after starting to ration fuel at cardlocks in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The company announced the lifted restrictions Feb. 13.

Why it matters: Manitoba producers complained that gas rations at Co-op cardlocks in early February threatened grain marketing plans and livestock feed, while some gas stations ran out of fuel.

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The company implemented a limit of 300 litres per card per day of diesel and 100 litres per card per day on Feb.5, following supply issues due to the ongoing labour dispute between the company and workers at their Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina.

Locked out workers had been blockading access to the refinery, keeping trucks from loading.

On Feb. 7, Regina police removed blockades along Regina’s Ninth Street and limited traffic to local traffic only. The move opened access to two loading facilities, FCL said at the time.

“On behalf of FCL and all local Co-ops, thank you to Co-op cardlock customers for your patience. We realize these outages and restrictions had a major impact on you and your businesses,” the company said in a Feb. 13 release.

The background

On Feb. 12, the province of Saskatchewan appointed mediator Vince Ready to help end the labour dispute, which has been escalating since early December when the union representing refinery workers, Unifor Local 594, gave strike notice and the company locked out workers.

Over the next weeks, the union called on the public to boycott the company, while picketers began blockading access to the refinery.

In January, the company asked, and was granted, an injunction to limit picketer ability to block access, an injunction the union was later fined $100,000 for breaking.

On Feb. 6, Saskatchewan media reported that the company had asked a judge to impose another $1-million penalty, plus an extra $100,000 every day refinery access remains blocked and a jail sentence for two Unifor leaders.

In Alberta, the company was also granted an injunction calling for Unifor to remove blockades from its Carseland terminal southeast of Calgary.

The union, meanwhile, called for an independent mediator, “with the power to implement a collective agreement should the parties not reach a negotiated deal in seven days.”

“We appreciate the appointment of Vince Ready and the imposition of a set negotiation period,”Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a Feb. 12 release. “We’ll know soon enough if Co-op is ready to bargain in good faith. If there is no deal after the mediation period we will know that Federated Co-operatives Limited really doesn’t want to end this lockout.”

Ready and the disputing parties have 20 days after the mediator’s appointment to come up with a deal.

Uncertain supply

Manitoba farmers said last week that they were starting to feel the shortages.

Jeff Hildebrandt, who farms in the Municipality of Montcalm, took to social media Feb. 7 to report that he could not get fuel to his farm.

“Found out yesterday (that) getting gas delivered to my farm may be a problem,” Greame Manness of Domain, Man., echoed the same day, also on social media.

Manness noted that his farm uses the fuel daily to operate augers and conveyors.

Others, such as Andrew Dalgarno of Newdale, said they were filling farm fuel tanks in case of a shortage.

Brooke Rossnagel, who farms near MacGregor, argued that fuel disruption threatened feed shipments critical to both production and animal welfare in the livestock sector.

“Blocking the fuel trucks from the people, I think that’s gone above and beyond,” he said. “(It’s) basically stopping people from having their livelihood, because that fuel isn’t just coming to farmers; it’s coming to the truck transport; it’s coming to ambulances.”

Dianne Riding, who operates a cow-calf operation in Lake Francis, Man., suggested that livestock transportation companies would find an alternative company to source fuel from, even if co-op shortages had become an issue.

“It is a problem that they are limiting the amount of fuel, but because of the time of year that we are at, it’s not as huge a problem as if we were in haying season or if we were trying to, in the fall, haul our feedstuffs home,” she said.

The Manitoba Pork Council, meanwhile, said they had not heard of any disruption from their members.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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