Epic struggle at Petro Canada secures national bargaining in energy sector

Workers at the Montreal Petro Canada refinery have voted 94.6 per cent to accept a new collective agreement to end a 13 month lockout fought over the future of national pattern bargaining in Canada's oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

"This epic struggle has preserved and strengthened national bargaining for energy workers across Canada," said Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union national president Dave Coles after the votes were counted in Montreal this evening.

"This dispute was about our relationship with the industry and recognition of the union's national bargaining program that has provided excellent wages and benefits for oil, gas and petrochemical workers for over 40 years. After a year long lockout, we have an honorable settlement that recognizes and preserves national bargaining."

"This is a fair settlement that is fully consistent with the CEP national pattern, including full retroactivity," said CEP National Energy Bargaining Program coordinator Joseph Gargiso. The 3 year agreement includes wage increases of 5 per cent, 4.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent, a $4,000 bonus, vacation benefits averaging $6,000 per worker for 2008 and $3,800 per employee profit sharing for 2007. Back to work provisions provide for the dropping of all charges arising from the dispute and a full return to work on January 12.

On the key issue in the dispute, the settlement provides for an automatic extension of the collective agreement when it expires in 2010 based on the union's national energy bargaining settlement that is achieved at Petro Canada's Edmonton refinery in the next round of national bargaining.

"We will return to work in January with our heads high," said CEP Local 175 President Jacques Vanier, "Our members have walked picket lines from one winter to another, and today we have achieved our goal of a new and respectful relationship with Petro Canada. Our members are truly
appreciative of the support we have received from CEP and the labour movement during this long fight."

Gargiso acknowledged the role of conciliator Robert Dupuis and special mediator Lucien Bouchard in reaching the settlement.

CEP President Dave Coles said the Petro Canada dispute was a watershed in Canadian labour solidarity that included financial support and a national boycott campaign against the oil company.

"Our members withstood the hardship of a 13 months struggle because of thousands of CEP workers in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry who supported them weekly, and because of outstanding support from the Canadian Labour Congress and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ who supported a boycott campaign and made it a real success."

"We also had international support from energy unions around the globe organized by our international federation, ICEM. There is no doubt that this outcome owes much to this watershed of labour solidarity that was organized in support of Local 175."

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