It looks like Rogers Sugar and the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC) Local 8 representing workers at the company’s Vancouver refinery will be going to mediation.

Rogers Sugar put a request into the BC Labour Relations Board for mediation which the union has accepted.

The union members at the facility walked off the job eight weeks ago with a key issue being continuous shifts.

Earlier this week, the Union put out a statement on their website on the current situation and some of their key concerns.

It has been eight weeks since the members of Lantic Inc. (Rogers Sugar) walked off the job and began picketing in front of Rogers Sugar and surrounding areas. We have been overwhelmed by the support we are receiving from other unions as well as from the general public. We would like to thank everyone for their support and understanding.

We have told the company on several occasions that our membership would not accept a proposal that included continuous shifts as part of the agreement. The Company has given us three different proposals that all contain the continuous shift.

As part of the continuous shift, they would like our membership to go from Monday to Friday production, 8 hours per shift, 3 shifts per day, to a model that operates 7 days a week, 12-hour shifts and 2 shifts per day. We value that weekend time to be with our families and do not want to lose that. Work-life balance is very important to us and spending more time at work than with your family does not support that.

Is running 168 hours per week the only way they will hire more people? Continuous shifting and 12-hour shifts does not make for a work/life balance. Rogers preaches that our members will get to spend more time with our families, but they are working an extra 104 hours per year with what is being proposed.

Rogers Sugar is predicting a shortfall of sugar for the next several years. In Montreal, they are constructing a brand-new building with new equipment to get the necessary extra production. That is coming at a cost of $280 million dollars. Rogers Sugar wants the same amount of production to be generated in Vancouver with old equipment and hiring more people, only if they get the continuous 12-hour per shift scheduling. Yet the company is only prepared to invest $9 million this year for maintenance.

Rogers is also saying to the media that there doesn’t seem to be a sugar shortage and that it is very localized: “When it comes to the bulk and liquid sugars that make up most of roughly 90% of the market in Canada, there is ample supply.”

This must mean that brown sugar and some packaged white sugar only make up 10% of the market in Canada. If this is the case, clearly there is no need to go to continuous shifts as they are making up the supposed demand. Management has been working in the refinery, and they are clearly keeping up with what is needed. They are doing this with a lot less than the 138 members that are currently on strike.

We would love to get back to the table and get a fair Collective Agreement for both parties. This does not mean giving up the items we have bargained for in the past. We have asked to hire more people. We have asked to upgrade existing equipment. We do not feel we should have to give up the benefits we currently have. Nobody wants to be on strike, but we remain strong and very united.