Nfld. & Labrador

D-J Composites in Gander picket after 'shocking and disrespectful' lockout

Approximately 40 employees at an aerospace manufacturing plant in Gander are on the picket line Tuesday morning after being locked out by the company.

'All we ask is for a fair raise, to make a living and feed our families'

D-J Composites workers on the picket lines last December. Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice says employees were locked out by the company following a vote where workers voted 100% in favour of a strike. (Melissa Tobin/CBC)

About 40 employees of an aerospace manufacturing plant in Gander were on the picket line Tuesday morning after being locked out by the company.

"It was shocking and disrespectful, as far as I'm concerned," said Igantius Oram, plant chair of Unifor Local 597.

Workers at D-J Composites, part of the U.S-owned D-J Engineering Inc., voted 100% in favour of a strike Monday afternoon, but the company locked them out first.

Union leaders say workers have been without a collective agreement for 21 months, and added wages and job protection are the most contentious issues.

Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice said the mood on the picket line Tuesday morning is "pretty sombre.'

Mike Stockley, who has worked with the company for 12 years, said his wage of just over $13.50 per hour does not cover his cost of living. 

"We [have] some technical skills in there that are not found anywhere else in any other industry," he said, adding there have been no raises in 21 months. 

"That's all we ask for is a fair raise, to make a living to feed our families and that's it."

Lana Payne, Unifor's Atlantic regional director, said for some employees, the company wants to "red-circle them, meaning no wage increase for five years."

Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice said members want to be back at their regular jobs, not on the picket line.

"We are hoping the company will calls us back to the bargaining table. We're ready and willing to go back," she said.

D-J Engineering has hired a consultant who is currently in Gander to negotiate with the union, said company vice-president Ray Tuschhoff when reached by phone in Augusta, Kan.

The company does not expect to reach a resolution with workers before Christmas.

With files from Central Morning and Melissa Tobin