Workers at the Come By Chance oil refinery have voted overwhelmingly to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement reached between the union and ownership group Silverpeak.
Ron Thomas, who represents workers at the refinery as part of the United Steelworkers union, told CBC News workers voted 96 per cent in favour of the deal, which he says included a wage improvement and language changes to help workers in the future.
"The biggest thing was that the full committee recommended it," Thomas told CBC News.
"I guess there's a bit of hope that the refinery is going to be up and running again."
The refinery, which hasn't operated since March 2020, has been supported by government funding to remain open over the past year. Thomas said that funding is up at the end of June, leaving many to question what the future of the refinery holds.
"Nobody knew what was gonna happen after this month," Thomas said. "We're just hoping for the best."
The union represents close to 250 workers at the refinery, according to Thomas.
New deal hints at possible sale, Thomas
With a new deal now in place, Thomas said the union believes Silverpeak will likely begin to move forward with a sale of the refinery.
While not able to speak for the company, Thomas said officials have been told a new agreement was a requirement for a possible sale of the refinery.
Silverpeak has also received interest, which was first reported by Reuters in February, to sell the refinery to Cresta Fund Management, a Dallas based firm interested in converting the facility to produce renewable biofuel.
"Basically, the agreement that has been ratified now is only based on if there's a sale with Cresta," Thomas said.
"All we can do is just hope that the sale will go through and hopefully our members can get back to work."
If Cresta were to take over the refinery, Thomas said changes would likely come to the layout of the plant. While he says the idea of shifting the refinery is addressed in the new deal, the union hasn't received word as to whether or not the changes would translate to job losses.
"The biggest thing is that they need to sell the plant," he said. "As of June, the funding is gone and I guess we're looking at shutdown mode."
"If there's a buyer that wants to run the refinery, the collective agreement is now in place and the workers are ready to go."
Silverpeak did not respond to requests for comment from CBC News.