Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Viterra elevator workers hit the bricks

(Resource News International) — Workers at Viterra’s grain terminal at Balgonie, Sask., established their
first picket line early Thursday in what their union calls a bid to force the
company back into productive collective bargaining.

The Grain Services Union (GSU) represents Viterra’s estimated 650 country elevator
operators and maintenance employees as well as 200 workers at the grain company’s head office in Regina.

“Employees from the facility along with a group of the
office workers from Regina set up the picket line early Thursday,
Hugh Wagner, GSU general secretary, said of the job action at Balgonie, about 25 km east of Regina.

Wagner said the strike action was part of a plan agreed to
last week by the country elevator operators and maintenance
personnel to begin escalating job action against Viterra due to
the lack of progress on a new collective labor agreement.

“While the picket lines are up, we are not turning away
producers,” Wagner said, noting that unionized employees were not
trying to inconvenience the farm community. “However, we are
holding up Viterra management with the picket line.”

Wagner would not disclose what the next step would be, but
he indicated that the GSU will be watching to see what Viterra’s
response to the action will be.

“When the GSU previously said it would hold rotating strike
action at Viterra’s Saskatchewan elevators, the company wrote us
a letter and threatened to lock out anyone who honoured or joined
the picket lines,” Wagner said.

Meanwhile, Wagner said mediated talks between GSU and
Viterra representatives did take place on Wednesday afternoon in
regards to the ongoing strike action by the office workers in
Regina.

“I don’t want to put too much emphasis on it, but the
meeting was productive and there was a useful exchange of
information on the issues,” Wagner said. “We put forward some
areas and ideas for a compromise resolution that would end the
dispute.”

Wagner said that if he understood the company’s response
correctly, Viterra was considering and reflecting on those ideas,
and was planning on getting back to GSU officials and the
mediator for dates to resume negotiations.

There were also some discussion on dates in which
negotiations on behalf of the country elevator operators and
maintenance workers can resume as well, Wagner said.

A Viterra spokesperson told the Reuters news agency Thursday that the pickets had not impacted the busy harvesttime operations at Balgonie, and that most unionized employees at the site crossed the line and continued to work.

The GSU told Reuters that it had also held an information picket at Viterra’s Weyburn, Sask., facility on Wednesday, although Viterra told the news agency that none of the Weyburn elevator’s employees had joined that picket.

(With files by FBC staff)

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