Covered Bridge Potato Chips strike ends after 5 months

The five-month-old strike at Covered Bridge Potato Chips in Hartland has come to an end after unionized workers voted in favour of a deal on Tuesday.

N.B. Federation of Labour president Patrick Colford calls the new agreement 'great victory for all workers'

Workers voted to approve a deal that would end the five-month-old strike at Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company on Tuesday. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The five-month-old strike at Covered Bridge Potato Chips in Hartland has come to an end after unionized workers voted in favour of a deal on Tuesday.

The two sides reached a collective agreement on Friday after negotiations resumed and then workers voted 71 per cent in favour of the deal on Tuesday night.

Carl Flanagan, a national representative for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1288P, said the new contract includes improvements to the priority areas for the workers.

Carl Flanagan, a national UCFW representative, said 71 per cent of unionized workers voted to ratify the new contract with Covered Bridge Potato Chips. (CBC)
"It feels awesome to get the contract signed and get the folks back in where they belong and making the chips, to stop the boycott and now to help the company grow," he said.

The three-year agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016.

The new deal includes more money for boot and clothing allowances and a pay increase for workers. But Flanagan said the precise wage bump will be different, depending on the job classifications.

The key provision in the deal revolves around job security and seniority.

Under this agreement, employees who have been working, for example, on a night shift will have the opportunity to apply for a new job that opens up during the day.

Calls and emails to the company, requesting an interview, have not been returned.

'5 months was well worth it'

Patrick Colford, the president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, said he's been in contact with the company's unionized workers and they are looking forward to getting back on the job.

Unionized workers walked off the job in January and had been on strike ever since. (CBC)
"I firmly believe that the five months was well worth it," Colford said.

"I had the opportunity to talk to some of the members this morning, they feel this was a great victory for all workers, all the workers up at the plant."

Workers are expected to return to work next Tuesday.

Colford said the boycott of Covered Bridge chips that the union had called for is now over. He said he purchased a bag of the chips on his way to work on Wednesday morning.

The UFCW's Flanagan said he believes the boycott had a major impact on the company's decision to return to the bargaining table.

The union leader said when the call for a boycott went national last week, the employer requested a new bargaining session.

"It took five months to get the deal because the employer did not want to recognize that it was going to be a unionized shop," Flanagan said.

Despite the lengthy strike, he said he is not predicting a strained relationship between the workers who went on strike and those in management or those who remained on the job.

"It's been one of the most peaceful picket lines that I've ever participated in. I got to tell you that I felt really good when we had the membership meeting [Tuesday] and the folks that were inside were sitting at the same table as the folks who were outside," Flanagan said.

"So I don't think it is going to be a big hurdle for us to cross to get the folks all back and working in the same direction."

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