Tensions Boiling Over in Petro-Canada Lock Out

Employees at a Montreal oil refinery are calling on the public to boycott Petro-Canada in support of the 260 workers locked out since November.

The lockout was a reaction by Petro-Canada to a year of strained contract negotiations with the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers Union (CEP) regarding contract requirements and safety concerns in the plant, according to a report in the The McGill (Montreal) Daily.

Tension at the refinery recently escalated when the CEP voted to authorize a possible strike in the refinery back in October. On November 17 the company announced that management would take control of operations in the refinery.

"Negotiations weren’t progressing, and we felt this would help push toward a solution," Andrew Pelletier, a spokesperson for Petro-Canada, told the paper.

Union representatives responded by claiming the company is breaking up the negotiation process. The hostilities boiled over following the proposed contract for 2007 to 2010, which Pelletier described as "very competitive."

However, Jacques Vanier, president of the local chapter of the CEP and an employee in the refinery, said the contract terms were unacceptable to workers.

The refinery is currently being run by a staff of about 130 administrators. Locked-out employees have recently expressed concern over the danger posed by running such a large plant without enough workers. Cloutier told McGill Daily that workers within the refinery are calling the work conditions "exhausting" and "unreasonable."

"The risk of an accident is constantly rising," he said. "Many workers are afraid of getting sick. Workers are staying overnight in the refinery to maintain production."

But Pelletier said that Petro-Canada has adequate staff, and said that the company’s priorities were "equipment and safety," he said. "The refinery is being run by seasoned and experienced operators."

The union is calling on consumers to boycott Petro-Canada’s gas stations during this lockout in solidarity with refinery employees.

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