Nfld. & Labrador

Union defends video identifying 'scabs' at D-J Composites after workers report threats

Video posted on Facebook, Twitter by Unifor Canada draws critical reaction

September 09, 2018

Lana Payne, Unifor's Atlantic regional director, says 'scab' workers undermine collective bargaining and help aid union busting. (CBC)

A video blasting replacement workers for crossing the picket line at D-J Composites in Gander, N.L., is proving to be a lightning rod for criticism, but the union representing the company's locked-out employees has no plans to take it down.

The clip, posted online Thursday by Unifor Canada, identifies by name and photo seven replacement workers and currently has more than 600 replies on Twitter, many of them questioning why the union is calling people out. 

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Lana Payne, the Atlantic regional director for Unifor, says workers doing "scab labour" while the 30 members of Local 579 have been locked out by the aerospace company since December 2016 is a betrayal that demands action and public indignation.

"These people have chosen to cross the picket line. They do it publicly every single day," said Payne on Sunday. "If they were ashamed of their behaviour they wouldn't do it. It's not bullying."

Payne says she's disheartened to see some of the public's sympathy rests with the replacement workers and not with employees who have been without work for almost two years.

"We're wondering where was that outrage for 21 months as their rights were being violated, and as their employer got away with bad-faith bargaining as they walked the picket line and faced many injustices," she said.

Payne said the release of the video is part of Unifor's efforts to step up pressure on D-J Composites to put an end to the lockout and get their members back to work. 

"At our Canadian Council, our convention in August, we made an announcement that we would be stepping up our efforts here, and this is part of that."

Took jobs to make ends meet

D-J Composites has twice been found guilty of violating labour laws, and the lockout has been contentious, but two of the replacement workers named in the video say they had no other choice but to accept work.

"What the public don't realize is that we made this choice for a reason. It wasn't to hurt anybody," said worker Ada-Mae Rogers, who has four kids and has been working at D-J Composites for two months now.

"It was to better our families, it was to provide for our families. I was in debt before I took this job [and] I needed a job."

Ada-Mae Rogers and Denika Granter say the union shouldn't target replacement workers like themselves and should instead focus on D-J Composites. (Submitted)

Rogers said seeing her face in the video felt threatening, and added she has already received multiple messages calling her out for being a "scab" in her Facebook inbox.

"I'm constantly looking over my shoulder now if I go anywhere and do anything," she said.

"Everybody can put my face and my name together now, and it scares the crap out of me."

We've had a lot of messages come in on Facebook from complete strangers, death threats, all across Canada with anything you could think of. - Denika Granter

Denika Granter has been with the company since July 2017, and says seeing her face in the video felt violating.

 "We've had a lot of messages come in on Facebook from complete strangers, death threats, all across Canada with anything you could think of," she said.

Granter said she's heard from many of her coworkers that they've faced harassment and received threats since the video was published.

Union has no tolerance for threats or violence

Payne doesn't believe that those messages are coming from Local 579, and said the union has absolutely no tolerance for threats or violence.

She said it's no secret to the people of Gander who the replacement workers are.

"Everybody in that town has known that they've been doing it. That's the reality of what's going on out there. Nobody's privacy has been violated here," said Payne.

This is one of the messages Rogers received after the video naming her was shared on Facebook and Twitter. (Submitted)

She also doesn't buy the argument from replacement workers that jobs at D-J Composites are the only ones available in Gander.

"They knowingly crossed a line when they could have been looking for and doing work somewhere else," she said. 

"There is work everywhere else, because I can tell you our members have had to find it in order to keep the wolf from the door. This was a choice that they made."

Replacement workers like Rogers and Granter believe that the union's bone to pick isn't with them but with the company itself. 

"Targeting us isn't going to get them anywhere with the company. It's just hurting us and it's making them look worse," said Rogers.

"Their job is there for them when they want it. If they come back, I'm gone. I'm just there until they come back. Or if. It's their choice."

Both replacement workers want the union to take the video down and apologize for it.

Ramping up efforts to end lockout

Payne said placing pressure on replacement workers is just another tactic the union is using to try to end the dispute.

She said the union has been looking for more support from the provincial government to help but hasn't received it.

D-J Composites workers have been on the picket lines since December 2016. (Melissa Tobin/CBC)

Three letters have been sent to Premier Dwight Ball since February without a response, said Payne. 

"This government has done nothing to say, 'Hello, Mr. Employer. In this province, we will not tolerate employers treating workers the way that you have done with this one.'"

Until a resolution is achieved, she said, Unifor will continue to fight.

"We're constantly back and forth with this employer to try and get a settlement. It's just been an ongoing nightmare for our members," she said.

CBC News has reached out to the premier's office and D-J Composites for comment, but has yet to hear a response.

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