Nfld. & Labrador

'They really needed this win': Union pleased D-J Composites found bargaining in bad faith

Lana Payne, Atlantic director of UNIFOR, says she is hopeful the ruling from the Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Relations Board will lead to a fair contract.

N.L. Labour Relations Board ruled Wednesday company violated Labour Relations Act, Unifor says

Lana Payne, Atlantic director for UNIFOR, says concessions sought by the company would strip workers of their seniority rights. (CBC)

The union representing locked out workers of D-J Composites in Gander is hopeful Wednesday's ruling from the province's Labour Relations Board will get its members closer to a "fair contract" with the company.

According to Unifor, the Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Relations Board decided D-J Composites violated Section 75 of the Labour Relations Act by engaging in bad-faith bargaining with its Gander employees. 

"[This] really sends a strong message here to all employers who think that they can just thumb their noses at the laws of the land and disregard the tenets of fair, collective bargaining," Atlantic director Lana Payne told CBC Radio's Central Morning Show.

"And for our members, they really needed this win. They've been on this picket line in Gander for 136 days today, while their employer engaged in bad-faith bargaining, and their support and solidarity has been incredible. But this has been a long, hard struggle for them, and I'm very happy for them today."

Concessions sought

Payne said D-J Composites, a U.S.–based aerospace manufacturing company, attacked the employees' seniority rights in March. 

"Our members had been on the picket line at that point three months. The employer came to the table and proposed new concessions at three months into a labour dispute. [That's] unheard of," she said.

"Those new concessions basically wiped out seniority for our members, and what the labour board has basically told the employer is that's unacceptable and you must remove those proposals from the bargaining table."

Payne said some of the union's members have been working at the company since 1999. 

"Their proposals would have said that that person who started work there in 1999 had the same seniority as someone who started yesterday. It's just completely unacceptable," she said.

Thirty-four workers in Gander have been locked out of the manufacturing plant since December. Despite the tumultuous environment, Payne is confident the company will keep its operation in Gander.

"They have a state-of-the-art facility that basically was built with taxpayers' dollars," she said.

"I doubt that they would abandon the facility. The only thing that they could possibly do, I suppose if they thought about it, is to sell it to somebody else."

CBC News contacted D-J Composites, asking for a comment on the labour board's ruling, but had not heard back as of Thursday.

With files from the Central Morning Show