‘We’re all blue collar workers’: unions across Canada throw support behind Unifor

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Rally cries are growing louder as day 50 in the Co-op Refinery labour dispute approaches.

The picket line has more than doubled with hundreds of Unifor members from across the country culminating in Regina.

“We’re all blue collar workers; we’re all unionized,” said Balkar Sandhu, a member of Unifor Local 111. “You support your sisters and you support your brothers in whatever field.”

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Sandhu is one of dozens of bus drivers from Vancouver walking the picket line. He said he flew to Regina on Sunday after receiving an email from Unifor asking for locals to send support.

“We just went through something very similar at Local 111,” Sandhu said. “We were out of a contract for a year and we were one minute away from going out on strike.”

On Tuesday, Lana Payne, secretary treasurer for Unifor National, said the next few days will be “crucial” on the picket line.

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“We put out a call to the rest of our locals across the country,” Payne said. “More are arriving as we speak. More are arriving tomorrow, more will arrive the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day until we win this dispute for our members.”

Unions across the country are throwing support behind Unifor, including national representatives from the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Federation of Nurses and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

“If they take away pensions in the private sector, we at the public sector know they’re coming after ours next,” said CUPE national president Mark Hancock during Wednesday’s rally.

“Our members at CUPE have very similar experiences to those at Unifor,” Hancock said. “There are some nuances, there are some differences, but at the end of the day we’re all workers.”

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Hassan Yussuff, the CLC president, said it isn’t the first time national unions have traveled across the country to join picket lines. But he said he can’t remember the last time a labour dispute reached tensions like this.

“It’s been quite sometime since we’ve had such a very nasty dispute going on in the country like this. It’s been a very, very long time,” Yussuff said.

Regina police arrested 14 people on the picket line Monday night, including Unifor National president Jerry Dias.




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