December 3, 2019 / 6:44 PM / 11 days ago

UPDATE 1-Canada's Co-op Refinery workers vote for strike

(Adds Federated Co-operatives comment)

By Arunima Kumar and Rod Nickel

Dec 3 (Reuters) - At least 800 workers at the Co-op Refinery in Regina, Saskatchewan have voted in favor of striking, the Unifor union said on Tuesday, after mediation talks broke down last month.

Refinery management and workers have been locked in a dispute for months over pension contributions. Unifor 594, the union representing the workers, had earlier entered mediation talks with employer Federated Co-operatives Ltd (FCL) that collapsed last month.

The Co-op Refinery has capacity to process 135,000 barrels of oil per day, making it third-largest in western Canada.

It will continue to operate during any strike, which could take effect upon 48-hour notice from the union, refinery spokesman Brad DeLorey said.

The co-operative built a work camp in autumn to house managers and contractor and keep the refinery running if workers strike.

The threat of a disruption comes as Western Canadian oil producers in Saskatchewan and Alberta struggle to move crude to U.S. refiners, their main market, due to congested pipelines. Co-op Refinery makes gasoline, propane and asphalt, among other products.

Unifor 594 said in a statement that its members voted 97.3% in favor of striking if necessary.

The union said its position is unchanged since the breakdown of mandatory mediation on Nov. 12 and it remains open to changing pension liabilities “but will not budge on pension security for every worker.” (Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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