D-J Composites workers host barbecue on Day 597 of lockout

Employees have been locked out by the American aerospace company since December 2016.

Rally marks 597 days of being on a picket line for Local 597

Iggy Oram says workers are fighting with DJ Composites and the province to find a solution to the lockout. (Melissa Tobin/CBC)

The union representing locked-out workers at D-J Composites in Gander marked a grim coincidence with a barbecue on Tuesday, using ketchup and mustard to mark a labour dispute that began in 2016. 

It's been 597 days since members of Unifor Local 597 were locked out of work by the American aerospace manufacturer.  

"Our intent here is to bring everybody together, to give a morale boost to the people who have been locked out," said local president Carolyn Wrice. 

"It's an opportunity for their families to come by and to see how we support everybody."

Twenty-seven people remain on the picket lines after first being locked out in December 2016. 

Wrice said Unifor's national representatives and D-J Composites recently talked, but the union is still waiting on a response to its proposals. 

Pushing government to take action

Gander Mayor Percy Farwell attended the barbecue to show his support for the workers, even while he insisted he wasn't taking sides in the bargaining process.

How many annual locked-out barbecues is it going to take in this province for our government to realize what is wrong here?- Iggy Oram 

"We just want the workers to understand that we are certainly concerned for their situation and we encourage a resolution to it as quickly as possible," he said.

The union criticized the Newfoundland and Labrador government for not stepping in to help settle the dispute or alter labour laws. 

"Difficult doesn't even begin to describe what two years locked out by an employer has been," Local 597 plant chair Iggy Oram told a crowd of around two dozen people.

"This is our second annual lockout barbecue. How many annual locked-out barbecues is it going to take in this province for our government to realize what is wrong here?" 

In the past, the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour has said that labour legislation "must balance the rights of employees and employers, and the current legislation provides this balance." 

But Oram insists that it's time for the government to step in. 

"It's above and beyond the company right now because the company is gonna do what they wanna do, and especially if our government is going to sit back and allow it to happen.

"Our focus is more or less on government now. It's a shame on our government right now."

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With files from Melissa Tobin