Covered Bridge Potato Chips strike enters week 6

Workers on strike at the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company in Hartland are still on the picket line, five weeks after the strike began over better pay and seniority issues. Approximately half of the company's 32 unionized workers walked off the job on Jan. 5, but as of Friday, only about 10 were outside carrying signs.

Workers have been on strike since Jan. 5 over wages and seniority

Some workers at Covered Bridge Potato Chips walk the picket line on Friday, striking over wages and seniority issues. (CBC)

Workers on strike at the Covered Bridge Potato Chips company in Hartland are still on the picket line, five weeks after the strike began over better pay and seniority issues.

Approximately half of the company's 32 unionized workers walked off the job on Jan. 5, but on Friday, about 10 were outside carrying signs.

Tom Broad, a fryer operator, said he's determined to see the situation through.

"It doesn't matter how cold it gets we're staying here," said Broad.
Tom Broad, a fryer operator, says he has done almost every job in the potato chip factory and plans to stay out on strike. (CBC)

He says one of the hardest parts of the past month on the picket line has been seeing other unionized staff cross the line and go to work.

"We don't really like to see them going in, crossing our picket line. We're fighting for them as well," he said.

Yves Leger, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 1288 representing the workers, says community reaction has been almost completely supportive.

"They've actually been dropping off coffee, donuts. The highway's right behind me here and they always honk their horns when they pass by," said Leger.

He said it appears some people are boycotting the product in solidarity with the striking workers.
Ryan Albright, president of Covered Bridge, declined a request for an interview. (CBC)

The union says the company should be forced to sit down with unionized workers to hammer out a deal, but unlike many other provinces, there's no legislation in place in New Brunswick to make that happen.

Legislation ignored

The New Brunswick Federation of Labour says protracted labour disputes in the past, such as the lockout at the Moncton Allsco windows and doors plant which lasted four years, could have been avoided with such legislation.

NDP leader Dominic Cardy says this kind of legislation has been ignored by successive governments.

"It's part of New Brunswick's longstanding commitment to be the absolute last place to do a lot of progressive things," said Cardy.

Ryan Albright, president of Covered Bridge, declined a request for an interview. In a statement released earlier in the strike, the company described the strike as "a small bump in the road that many family–run businesses encounter."  

In early February, a New Brunswick judge tossed out an application from Covered Bridge Potato Chips to dismantle the union.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Terrence Morrison 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.

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."


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