This post comes to us from the Facebook group Co-op/FCL Boycott 2020 – as an anonymous message to the administrators.
During Co-op/FCL’s lockout of Refinery workers, truck drivers (often encouraged by trucking companies that employ them) have vented frustrations toward Refinery workers for holding strong pickets and blockades they have mounted to defend pensions and bring Refinery management back to the table. It should be mentioned that many truckers have expressed sympathy for and solidarity with locked out workers as well, and one has passed along this anonymous message. The message outlines some educated guesswork that Co-op/FCL is coming after truckers next, presumably after they defeat the Refinery workers. As the group administrator relates, “It’s long, but I would encourage reading until the end.” We’ve highlighted some sentences for emphasis.
Administrator: “I was contacted by an employee that wishes to remain anonymous with some information that really shows the intent of Co-op, FCL and Scott Banda. Below is the letter I was given. The owner operators and drivers need to question what is happening and stand with the employees to have Banda removed from the helm. If they don’t it sounds like they will all lose their jobs.”
“An open letter to leased operators and drivers.
You are next, and the proof is both figuratively and literally written on the wall.
I ask you today to take some time to stop and really think about what I’m about to tell you. I want you to look at the larger picture and use some logic and reasoning to realize that what I am telling you is true. Co-op is going to get rid of the truck fleet, and it will likely happen fairly soon. I understand that is a grandiose statement and there will be large amounts of skepticism by some, but please hear me out as there is proof you can see for yourself in the PDD office.
Co-op has been slowly phasing out the fleet by bringing on more common carriers. That is a fact. Every single one of you can see it. It makes financial sense to do it, especially when Co-op and FCL are making a massive push to lower costs under the disguise of “sustainability.”
Owning a fleet is extremely expensive which is why Co-op is the only refinery to do it. There is tons of overhead. They buy the trailers, do the maintenance, plate them, and insure them. They maintain the driver fleet which means office jobs (in scope and numerous management), constant paperwork, driver training, dealing with accidents, liability when it comes to drivers breaking the law or getting in accidents, constant driver auditing, software to monitor and track trucks and drivers, and the list goes on.
The reason Co-op has always done this despite the cost is because it was a cooperative and part of that was ensuring money stayed in the communities and that good jobs were made available for residents. However our current “leaders” have been aggressively moving away from cooperative values and focusing on the bottom line and profits. The Senior “Leadership” Team has spent copious amounts of money to have analytics companies come in and compare Co-op to other refineries and benchmark us. The people at the top have said publicly they want us to be in line with all the other refineries so we can remain competitive and “sustainable.” The only way to do that would be to get rid of the fleet.
Anyone that hauls Terra ethanol will remember what it was like this past year. It started off normal, then FCL purchased Terra Grain [Fuels]. Many operators and drivers were ecstatic, thinking the amount of loads they would get to haul would skyrocket, increasing their profits. Instead they stopped altogether. Many wondered what happened and eventually we found out that Westcan, a common carrier, was bringing them in. The loads never really recovered from then. Only recently did our fleet begin getting loads again, and even at that it was only a small fraction of what it typically was.
I remember when I started, we had numerous seasonal units come on during seeding and harvest. Most leased ops got one or more and it allowed them an opportunity to make more money during the busiest seasons. Rarely were common carriers ever used. Eventually many of those seasonal units became permanent units due to the increase in load count and ability to sustain the trucks year round.
However, seasonal units have become mostly a thing of the past. Instead of adding seasonal units so our fleet can prosper like usual, we instead rely more and more on common carriers. This dependence goes far beyond just seeding and harvest. Rather than supplementing our leased ops wages they constantly bring in common carriers and allow them to haul your loads. In fact, when we start winding down and loads become scarce, management has still been bringing in common carriers.
One of the most common complaints I hear from drivers and leased ops is “Why the fuck is [common carrier] still here doing loads when it’s so slow?” Management has purposely sat drivers on our fleet to ensure that common carriers can continue to run. Just ask any dispatcher. Right before the lockout when we had 30 to 50% of the fleet sitting, the dispatchers were still forced to give up multiple loads per day to ensure common carriers could run. So on a good day that I may have been able to get maybe 80 or 90% of my desk out, I was instead told to give away loads to common carriers and sit my drivers meaning that I now had to tell some of you that you didn’t have a job to do that day. Further to this, a common carrier was allowed to purchase a part of the Edmonton fleet from one of our leased operators and continue on. There are two desks in the office that actually dispatch out common carriers daily, along with the FCL fleet.
Management has been slowly building up data to compare and analyze the cost difference between running an FCL fleet and solely common carriers. This is a fact you can verify yourself if you go into the PDD office. Posted on the wall as you walk towards the management offices is a giant monthly scorecard. You see, every department at the refinery gets a little chart every month telling them how good or bad they’re doing. It lists things like sick time used, overtime expenses, or in the case of PDD, rail cars sent out, truck volume loaded, etc. There is also one relatively new addition in the last few months in its own little chart. A cost comparison between the FCL fleet and common carriers. Why would they need to do that if Co-op plans to keep their fleet? Why would they invest the time and energy to build up data points over the last few years for hauling fuel, ethanol, etc and then directly compare the two? Given what I’ve told you, which do you think was lower? I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t you.
So what do I think will happen? Well I think that the man in charge has told all of you not to worry about what’s going on during the lockout and that you’ll all be taken care of. He’s told you that he appreciates everything you do and that we’ll all get through this together. Fall in line and you’ll have nothing to worry about. You’ve been told that they will take care of any issues that arise once this is all over and that no one will be allowed to be impacted by resentment or grudges of any sort. Those union employees will know their place once this is all done. They’ll thank you for sticking with them through all of this and smile to your face while awaiting your next contract negotiation. Once that negotiation comes up they’ll tell you that owning and maintaining a fleet is no longer sustainable.
They’ll give you the option to purchase the trailers and continue to haul fuel as a common carrier rather than a leased operator. They’ll try to convince you this is good for you as you now have options. If you don’t like it, you can always go somewhere else as now you’re no longer bound by contract to only haul FCL fuel. However, they feel you should probably just be happy to have a job in this market. Now you’ll be forced to bid on jobs against everyone else in the fleet, as you all attempt to undercut each other to secure a place on the roster. Rather than knowing you have constant, secure work you’ll be forced to decide just how little you can stand to make on a trip.
The drivers will leave en masse to find better paying, more consistent work elsewhere and the fleet will become a revolving door. Some of you may try to sell out to other operators, maybe Seaboard will buy some of you, the rest will just scrape by, go under, or start hauling other commodities or working for other refineries. Regardless your career as you know it will be destroyed.
You may feel that this would never happen. Years ago if you had asked if anyone ever thought Co-op and FCL would stab every single one of their employees in the back they would have said that could never happen. Management was just screwed, and now all the union employees are facing the same thing. If Banda is able to dissolve the fleet in the name of sustainability, at the very least three managers, likely a few dispatchers, and every leased operator and driver will lose their jobs.
Many of you have drawn a deep line in the sand and already chosen your side. You have planted your feet firmly on the ground unwavering in your resolve to the hand that feeds. I very strongly urge you to reconsider, for not all is lost. What we’re doing is standing up to the people at the top that want to change Co-op into a money hungry corporation. This fate isn’t set in stone, as removal of a few key players in this battle could bring about a complete change in the future of Co-op and FCL. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility to correct the course of this cooperative if we make big enough waves. Your life is in your own hands at this point. In a few years are you going to be able to say that you stood up for yourself and helped fix Co-op and FCL, or are you going to say you ignored the writing on the wall?”
- Terra Grain Fuels is a large-capacity ethanol fuel production plant near Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan.
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