By Glen Archer, inSolidarity
Regina police took an almost unprecedented action at the Unifor 594 lockout when they arrested National Unifor President Jerry Dias as he was joining a picket line.
Dias was captured on video pleading with the police to stop escalating the tensions and to not interfere with the workers engaging in their lawful right to picket. His pleas were wilfully ignored. Police arrested an additional 13 union activists citing an interim injunction limiting the activities of protesters. Unifor maintains the injunction only affects local members and not the national union and its allies.
On February 4, police descended in force with several tow trucks and began ticketing and towing vehicles belonging to locked-out workers and their supporters. At Gate 7, police ushered tow trucks into the barricaded area to remove vehicles and equipment, and it was reported that a U-Haul trailer being hauled away struck a demonstrator. Not surprisingly, no police action was taken.
The area where the vast refinery is located is surrounded by main roads, with wide-open spaces where there are absolutely no posted signs indicating parking limitations. Police are relying on an over-arching parking bylaw that they can use at their own will.
On February 7, police started an almost surgical extraction of Local 594 members from the pickets. It appeared that managers of Federal Co-Operatives Limited, stationed across from the picketers, would identify individual local members in the crowd and relay that information to the police. That evening four local members were carted off, per the injunction.
This action saw a dramatic decline in the numbers at all the gates, most notably Gate 7. It became very clear that the local folks were scared that police were targeting them.
Over the next several days, helicopters used to transport the scabs into the refinery would briefly fly over the pickets. Within minutes, the police would be on-site, issuing tickets to any vehicles present.
Police maintain they are only enforcing court injunctions, yet they blocked surrounding roadways and denied picketer access, preventing union members from exercising their rights as specified in those same injunctions to stop every truck entering the refinery for 10 minutes. Police were actively escorting trucks through the gates unimpeded. It is disheartening to see police acting as the strong-armed agents of the employer and harassing the sisters and brothers trying to get a collective agreement to end this bitter lockout.