The provincial government has called in the help of an independent mediator to try to resolve the months-long dispute between aerospace manufacturer DJ Composites and Unifor.

The mediator, announced on Friday by Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Al Hawkins, is in addition to the conciliation services that the government said it has been providing since last August.

Hawkins said in a statement that he hoped the mediator would provide a "fresh perspective" to the bargaining, which has been stalled.

"I urge the parties to avail of this opportunity and to make a determined and honest effort to bring an end to this dispute," Hawkins said.

Months-long dispute

The appointment followed a request by Unifor to bring in a mediator for the case.

"What a mediator will eventually do, is he can give a report directly back to the labour minister on what the problem is here … and why it's taken us this long to try to settle a deal," said Ignatius Oram, a representative at Unifor Local 597, who also works at the site.

Ignatius Oram

Ignatius Oram is the plant chair at Unifor Local 597. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

DJ Composites, located in Gander, locked out its unionized employees on Dec. 20, 2016, following a strike vote by members of Unifor Local 597.

The 32 workers in that group have been without a collective bargaining agreement for more than two years.

Unifor has called the proposals put forward by DJ Composites "unreasonable" and "union busting."

Going the distance

Oram said his members want a quick resolution to the dispute — but will do what they have to.

"We endured a hard winter here last year, and the members are still strong here, and if we got to spend another winter on this [picket] line to fight the cause we will," he said.

Oram said some of his co-workers are now drawing from their RRSPs in order to get by.

Unifor shelter DJ Composites

Union members have made a temporary shelter at the foot of the parking lot of DJ Composites. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"It's taken a massive financial toll on most of the members here," he added. 

"You worked all your life just for retirement, and then all of a sudden you got to take it for these circumstances, [that's] pretty disturbing  actually."

DJ Composites did not immediately respond to an interview request.