Nfld. & Labrador

D-J Composites worker says 'scabs' hurting chances of going back to work

D-J Composites employees in Gander, locked out since December 2016, caught up in controversy over a Unifor Canada video identifying replacement workers as "scabs."

Locked out workers feel enough is enough, replacement workers feel threatened

Workers of D-J composites have been locked out since Dec. 2016. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

One locked out D-J Composites worker says it's a good thing their union's "scabs" video has stirred the pot, catapulting their labour dispute back into the eyes of the media.

"We're ecstatic about it, because at least now we're back into the media and the scab workers that cross our line every day, is in there, doing our job, day in and day out and laughing at us every day as they walk by or drive by the picket line as if it's a normal day for them," Della Glover, who was been working at D-J Composites for 14 years, told CBC News.

"Well I'm sorry to say to them, it's not a normal day for us to be out here on the picket line." 

Union employees at D-J Composites in Gander have been locked out since December 2016. Their strike made its way into headlines again last week due to controversy over a video posted by Unifor Canada identifying replacement workers as "scabs."

Unifor Canada is the union representing the locked out workers from D-J Composites. 

While the video has been widely criticized, Unifor is defending it.

'They knew it was a lockout'

While Unifor and their locked out workers are being labelled as bullies for their video post, the D-J Composites union employees feel they are the ones actually being bullied by the workers replacing them. 

Glover said they would have their jobs back by now if the replacement workers stopped crossing the picket line. 

"When they cross the picket line we stand there and we look at them, and we call them scabs, and we tell them that it's not fair for them to be in there taking our jobs. I mean 630 days sitting here, watching them go by every day, it's heartbreaking," she said.

Premier Dwight Ball said he isn't going to comment on the negotiation strategies between Unifor and D-J Composites, but wants to see the two sides back at the bargaining table. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The replacement workers knew that the D-J Composites employees had been locked out, Glover said, and were aware of how it would be perceived to work their jobs.

"They took pictures of our scab signs and posted it on their Facebook. So do I have pity for them? No, because right now they knew what they were getting involved with."

Glover added that it has been difficult being on the picket line for such a long time, often in harsh weather, while employees with less training and experience get paid to do their jobs.

"We've been trained and went to school and we were educated," she said.

"I had to pay back a student loan to even get a job in the building, and now they got people in there working that came out McDonald's and other places around town that's not even educated to do what they're doing in there. They're training them right on site."

Glover said it's difficult to get both the company and the union to meet, since D-J Composites is getting what they need out of the replacement workers and believes the more replacements the company can hire, the longer they can keep the union workers outside with added pressure. 

"With trying to get your mortgage paid, your car payment paid, food on your table, it's getting tougher and tougher every day," she said. 

"We've got half the people on the picket line, already got a part-time job. Some got full-time jobs, still doing picket line duty because they do believe in what we're fighting for."

She believes the time has come for the provincial government to take action. 

"Right now the government needs to involved and make sure that they can get an arbitrator put in place so that the union and the company can sit down to the table and bargain in good faith." 

Ball not saying much

Premier Dwight Ball didn't comment on the possibility of arbitration, or anything else specific to the strike or Unifor video, when questions by CBC News Monday.

"I'm not going to make any comment on the negotiating tactics that any group would determine that they see as in the best, their interest. They've made a decision. They weren't looking for permission from me," Ball told reporters at an event on Monday.

"Right now, they're taking advantage, or wanting to do, put in, whatever the mechanisms that they would feel that would actually get people back to the table. What I want to do is make sure that the company and the union get back to the negotiating table and get a fair settlement."

When pressed further by CBC News, Ball again sidestepped what he thought of the video.

A temporary shelter at the foot of the parking lot of D-J Composites made by the locked out union members. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"For me, right now, I am not going to react or respond to how any group, would actually, they would see, the whatever tactic that they want to use when it comes to getting people back to the table. The only tactic I want to see is get back to the table," Ball said.

Ball said the lockout is "frustrating for all of us and we know that the the resolution is best when we have everyone at that table."

He pointed to the involvement of the labour relations board with the work disruption "which at this point, at both times, has been deemed that a binding arbitration was not something that this independent group would recommend, given the situation that we're in," Ball said.

Is it ethical?

Tom Cooper teaches business ethics at Memorial University. 

He said the Unifor video is comparable to stalking, and added that from an ethical standpoint he's a bit concerned.

"Is this going to make the American owner move any closer to providing a resolution? I'm not sure it does," Cooper said.

"I think what it does is that it targets these scab workers and puts their potential rights and personal safety at threat."

Tom Cooper teaches business ethics at MUN. He says the Unifor video identifying the D-J Composites replacement workers is concerning. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

However, Cooper admits what Glover said is factual.

"We are talking about it on TV, and on radio, and we are seeing once again the pain and the suffering that those locked out workers are going through," he said.

With files from Garrett Barry, Terry Roberts, Stephanie Kinsella, Chris O'Neill-Yates

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