Tribunal rules long-striking workers at D-J Composites can collect E.I.

After 82 weeks locked out, workers at D-J Composites in Gander are now allowed to collect employment insurance.

Employees have been on strike since Dec. 2016

Ignatius Oram, the local chair of the union, says that the EI victory will mean a lot for workers. Many of them have been forced to pick up part-time jobs during the lock out. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

In a rare ruling, locked out workers at D-J Composites in Gander are now allowed to collect employment insurance, following a successful appeal to the E.I. commission after their benefits were initially denied.

In a statement issued by Unifor Atlantic, the labour group representing the workers, director Lana Payne said this decision is significant. 

Workers have been on the picket line since December of 2016.

"Eighty-two weeks on a picket line is tough and demoralizing," she said

"We have consistently told our members that we will leave no stone unturned in representing them and their rights."

While striking workers aren't typically eligible to collect E.I., Unifor Atlantic said in this case a federal tribunal ruled that because D-J Composites didn't meet the test of a lockout as outlined in E.I. regulations, employees are eligible.

Some of them will receive up to a year in E.I. benefits, Unifor said. 

Huge victory 

Ignatius Oram, the local chair of the union, said winning benefits will mean a lot for the workers.

"It was a monumental victory for us as a union," said Oram.

"​Being on a picket line for this long, obviously is taking a toll on everybody right now."

Workers have been locked out since Dec. 2016. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He said employees were only receiving $250 a week as strike pay, and that many of them have had to take on part-time jobs in the community as the strike continues. 

Every attempt to find an end to the strike thus far has failed, including mediation. There has also been a ruling by the labour relations board that the company had engaged in bad-faith bargaining.

But Oram said the union is moving forward in talks with the company next week in Toronto, for the first time since last November.

"It's at a point now for everybody's sake to do our best to try to resolve this dispute," he said.

With files from Garrett Barry