D-J Composites, Unifor settle legal case, head to contract negotiations

The union representing locked-out workers at D-J Composites in Gander will pay about $160,000 in fines, donations and fees as a penalty for last month's blockade.

About $160,000 in penalties and legal fees for Unifor and two of its leaders

Lawyers for Unifor and Local 597 huddle with union officer Lana Payne and D-J Composites manager Peter Rayner in a courtroom in Gander on Tuesday. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The union representing locked-out workers at D-J Composites in Gander will pay about $160,000 in fines, donations and fees as a penalty for last month's blockade.

Lawyers representing the union and two of its leaders apologized to a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice on Tuesday and admitted that the blockade violated a 2017 injunction.

Unifor, and Unifor Local 597, blocked access to the D-J Composites plant on Sept. 26 and declared they were shutting down the operation in an effort to turn up the pressure on both the company and the Newfoundland and Labrador government in the protracted contracted dispute.

D-J Composites was seeking a court penalty against the union, but on Tuesday it presented the court with a settlement agreement between the two sides to end the lawsuit.

As a result, Unifor will pay a combined $100,000 to local charities in the Gander area. Unifor lawyer Tom Johnson said Unifor proposed a charitable donation, and the company agreed it was a good idea. 

Unifor's blockade of D-J Composites will cost the union and its officers about $160,000. (CBC News)

Half of that amount will go to the Salvation Army Family Services branch. Donations will also be made to the Open Door Community Youth Network and the Cara Transition House.

"Over the course of what's been the longest lockout in provincial history, there's been a great opportunity to observe local needs," he said after the hearing.

"This outcome today presented an opportunity for Unifor to recognize the efforts of these charities and to deal with the civil matter by making a public donation to these entities whose whose goals Unifor fully embraces and endorses."

Unifor will also pay just over $40,000 in legal fees for D-J Composites. Unifor's national president, Jerry Dias, and Unifor's Atlantic director, Lana Payne, will also pay fines of $5,000 apiece, while Local 597 has also been fined $10,000. Ignatius Oram, chair of Local 597, was dropped from the suit.

Payne speaks at a rally at the D-J Composites plant on Sept. 26. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Johnson told Burrage that the violation of the injunction happened after a long period during which the union complied with its terms, and was not done to disrespect the court, but instead out of a frustration with the 600-day contract dispute.

Justice Donald Burrage called it a "very serious" breach, in direct violation of the court's 2017 order.

The blockade ended Oct. 5, after D-J Composites agreed to enter binding arbitration with the union.

Negotiations resume

Contract negotiations between D-J Composites and Unifor are resuming in St. John's Tuesday.

Payne said that there will be at least one round of negotiations between the company and the union, and any unresolved issues will be forwarded to binding arbitration.

She said that even if the dispute between both sides has been bitter, that won't get in the way of negotiations.

"We've always negotiated in good faith, so this isn't a problem for us," she said. "We're professionals, we negotiate hundreds and hundreds of collective agreements a year, and we'll put our best foot forward here, and make sure our members will get justice at the bargaining table."

Payne said she hopes a deal will be done before Christmas.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.