Covered Bridge Potato Chips loses labour court ruling

Striking workers at Covered Bridge Potato Chips have won a court case, but are still without a contract.

Court of Queen's Bench justice upholds rejection of employer's application to terminate union

Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company is located in Hartland. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

A New Brunswick judge has tossed out an application from Covered Bridge Potato Chips to dismantle the union, but the decision has not helped secure a contract for striking workers.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terrence Morrison this week rejected an application by the chip factory owners to overturn a ruling by the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board and terminate the union.

The company applied to the board to terminate the union based on 24 "statements of desire" from employees who stated they no longer wanted to be represented by the union.

Carl Flanagan, a national UCFW representative, said the union is hopeful a court decision in the union's favour will help get the employer back to the bargaining table. (CBC)
In the judge's ruling, he said the board determined that Covered Bridge did not persuade it that the statements of desire were "the voluntary will of the bargaining unit employees."

The judge said the board was correct to ensure the statements were free from any potential taint from the employer.

"The test for determining taint is a very low one: if there is a 'reasonable possibility' of employer influence the application will be dismissed," the judge said.

"The board concluded that the section of the signatures by the applicant was tainted by employee perceptions of employer influence. In my view, the evidence relied upon by the board, considered in its entirety, was more than sufficient to support the board's inference of a reasonable possibility of a taint by employer influence."

Employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1288P — 32 of the 90 workers at the factory — went on strike Jan. 5, seeking better wages and seniority rights.

Carl Flanagan, the national UCFW spokesman, said the employees hope the decision will bring their employer back to the bargaining table so a settlement can be reached.

The 32 members of the union have been in a legal strike position since June and some members walked off the job in January.

The union has called for consumers to boycott the brand of potato chips during the strike. 

Meanwhile, the company has pledged to continue the business despite the contract dispute.

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