Volume 22 | Issue 4 | April 2022
We've used this space, or the Conciliator in general, to identify issues in the workplace and shine a spotlight on problems and how to fix them. And there are plenty of issues plaguing the refinery currently. That sentiment was quite evident in the results of the most recent membership survey. Roughly 69% of respondents' mental health has deteriorated post-lockout and over 80% feel the Co-op's reputation as a good employer has worsened. The outcome was that over 40% were actively seeking other employment. Those are staggering results that should cause alarm bells to go off about the state of workplace morale.

It is quite easy to be critical and cynical of company decisions, especially regarding temporary & permanent layoffs, contracting out and minimum staffing (among others). Those are major directives that have a massive impact on working conditions and individuals' mental health. And we'll likely only get resolution through the Labour Relations Board or grievance process which can take months and months. In the meantime, we see valuable employees leaving the company and others struggling as uncertainty looms.

The five main factors that affect morale are leadership, communication, reward & recognition, work-life balance, and value-added work. We could break these all down and point to refinery-specific failures that have negatively impacted morale, but instead, we want to take a moment to focus on some of the positives.

We are in the midst of Turnaround, and every day we have members stepping up to the challenges of increased workload and hours. Lots of our tradespeople have taken on roles as coordinators which is outside of their comfort zones, but do a tremendous job of ensuring work is executed in a safe and effective manner. The Process members, who are isolating equipment and holding the hands of contractors so we can get the units cleaned, inspected and repaired as quick as possible reducing operational downtime. Every department is stepping up, the ones that are allowed to anyways. While many groups have been pushed out of Turnaround involvement gradually over the last seven years, our membership is unmatched in ability and effectiveness at getting work done. This is a huge positive - surely leadership can't continue to ignore the massive resource they have handcuffed to the sidelines. If efficiency is the goal, then relying on highly-skilled and trained people you already employ has to give the refinery the most value. 

It speaks to the Maintenance workforce outside of Turnaround. While the general disrepair of the plant causes everyone significant stress, it is a positive in the sense that surely any plans to further reduce compliment will be scrapped in favour of even adding to the shops. There is more work than ever to overcome the massive backlog of work orders before we can even undertake a proactive & preventative maintenance program. A person can only work so much overtime before burnout and fatigue start to make matters worse. With trades supervision at the bare minimum, filling the Lead Hand positions in every shop makes more sense than ever. Their positive impacts are immeasurable. The only pragmatic move would be to staff our shops appropriately. The spin-off effects will do wonders for work-life balance, members' mental health and the physical safety of people and equipment. That in turn will have a worthwhile impact on the bottom line. It's win-win.

While the lawyers hash out the Master Operator ULP at the Labour Board, our Process department continues to step up. Despite being forced to operate at minimum staffing levels, denied holidays because of a non-existent relief pool, and the poor state of equipment due to systematic failures the operational record is outstanding. The success of our Process group despite all of the obstacles in their way is a true testament to the capabilities of the team. The interim order from the LRB has allowed the new leadership in Process time to see first-hand the substantial value the Master Operator and Rover positions bring to the shift team. They are leaders, trainers, safety officers, mentors and calm experienced hands during tense operational situations. With many shift supervisor vacancies, section supervisor inexperience, and the reorganization on the management side there will be an increased reliance on the Master Operator. No operator has ever panicked because the supervisor position wasn't filled for a shift, but there is definitely concern when the Master Operator is absent. That is a huge positive and testament to its importance. It would be disastrous to lean out the operations staff further. 

There are plenty of positives to focus on and 594's overall willingness to work is our biggest value. Our local has been a source of strength for the cooperative system for 80 years. We have faced operational and market challenges dozens of times. We have always overcome and we will get through this dark period as well. We can do that by supporting one another, like we did during the lockout, and blocking out the noise. While the family atmosphere at the refinery has diminished, we can't rely on leadership to replenish that sense of pride in the workplace.

Cooperatives by nature are member driven. Our Refinery is no different. We can drive change from the ground floor. We do that by continuing to beat the safety drum, protect our jobs, and hold everyone accountable. Solidarity will prevail.

In Solidarity,
Richard Exner, Chief Shop Steward
Any union member in good standing may nominate themselves or another member for an elected position, in person or writing. If the candidate cannot attend the nomination meeting on May 24, a nominator must present the candidate’s signed acceptance letter at the nomination meeting. Nominations for the below positions will only be accepted in-person (via ZOOM).
The following positions in Group 1 are open for nominations for a two-year term:
Maintenance VP
Administration VP
Sergeant At Arms
Chief Shop Steward
Information Officer
Trustee (three-year term)
The following positions in Group 2 are open for nominations for a one-year term:
PDD Vice President
Recording Secretary

Currently there are Shop Steward vacancies in PDD Warehouse and Maintenance Relief Pool. If you are interested in filling a vacant position or becoming a Shop Steward, please email your intentions to [email protected].

In the event elections are required they will be conducted using online voting. An invitation to cast your ballot will be sent via email, from Election Buddy. Further information and instructions will be distributed to the membership after the nomination period concludes, if necessary.

If you have any questions about Executive Positions or the Nomination Process, please contact me at [email protected].  
In Solidarity,
Richard Exner, Elections Committee Chair
to the following 594 members:
Mark Gelowitz - Process Section 3 (April 1, 2022)
  • Congratulations Avery Riche and Lindsay who welcomed daughter Scottie Eva Marie Riche born April 2, 2022.
Please let us know of any noteworthy milestones at [email protected]
Employee & Family Assistance Program
The Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is through Homewood Health and is available 24/7/365. Call 1-800-663-1142 or reach out to a trusted confident, friend or co-worker if you aren't feeling like yourself.
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