After nearly two years without a collective agreement, American-owned aerospace company D-J Composites locked out 33 Unifor members at its manufacturing plant in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador days before the holidays.
Members of Local 597 were unwilling to accept a company demand for three to five-year wage freezes and voted for a strike mandate, but told the company they wanted to continue bargaining. Instead, the employer made a snap decision to lock out the workers.
Unifor 597 President Carolyn Wrice said that despite attempts to put members on their knees, the resolve remains strong and united.
On January 12, Unifor organized a rally and members were overwhelmed by the support from NAPE, CUPE - NL, the National Union of Defence Employees, PSAC, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, other Unifor locals and the local community.
“The support from day one has been amazing. This is what solidarity looks like,” said Ignatious Oram, plant chair for Local 597. “We’re standing strong because we know we’re not asking for a whole lot, just a fair deal.”
Workers are looking to maintain benefits and ask for a wage increase that keeps up with the cost-of-living.
“The offer from the employer would see our members falling behind, but we are unwilling to go backwards,” said Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director. “Local 597 know they have the support and solidarity of Unifor members across the country, but I encourage all locals to express that solidarity financially and otherwise.”
Unifor contacted a labour conciliator to get talks moving.