Nfld. & Labrador

Day 646 of D-J Composites lockout marked by big union rally

"They are only interested in busting our union. We won't be busted."

Unifor executive vows union members will remain at the site 'as long as it takes'

Several hundred people rallied in support of D-J Composite workers who have been locked out since December 2016. (CBC News)

Several hundred union members converged on Gander Wednesday to rally outside D-J Composites, where workers have been locked out for 92 weeks.

"We've locked the employer out," said Lana Payne, Atlantic regional director of Unifor.

"They're not getting in the plant. So there is nobody in the plant today, tomorrow or the next day or as long as this takes to get justice for our members."

Twenty-seven workers at D-J Composites, members of Unifor Local 597, remain on the picket lines after being locked out in December 2016.

Unifor executives have accused D-J Composites of refusing to bargain in good faith, and repeatedly pointed out that the company has twice been found guilty of violating provincial labour laws.

"They are not interested in reaching a collective agreement with us. They are only interested in busting our union. We won't be busted," said Payne.

'As long as it takes'

Unifor faced criticism recently after producing and posting a video that named and showed the faces of replacement workers, or scabs as the union calls them.

When pressed Wednesday on how the union is preventing people from entering the building, Payne replied, "There are more of us than there are of them, so they have not crossed our line today and they will be greeted with many of our friends if they attempt to do so."

Unifor member have taped the union's banner over the D-J Composites sign on the building in Gander. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

How long will the hundreds of union members, some of whom were flown in for the rally, stay in Gander and in front of the building?

"As long as it takes to get a response from the employer or a response from the government to get this resolved," she said.

She also has a message for the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

"You need to step in here and support the workers in Gander and stop siding with a U.S. employer who is breaking labour laws throughout the province," Payne said. 

Support from outside the province

Among the hundreds of supporters in Gander on Wednesday were Unifor members from Ontario, including Suresh Srikan and Jordan Reid.

"We're going to be here until Monday, and if we have to stay, we will stay longer until we get something done for our brothers. That's why we are here," Srikan said.

"They have families, they have children. They have to feed them, they have to help them out. We are not going to let it go. We are going to fight until the last minute. We are here to fight."

Suresh Srikan and Jordan Reid flew into St. John's from Ontario. The pair then drove to Gander to support their fellow Unifor members. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Reid, of Unifor 598 out of Sudbury, Ontario, said Unifor branches try to stay informed about what's happening in other areas across the country.

"You come after one of us, you come after all of us," he said.

"We're here in solidarity."

Government to remain neutral

Despite repeated calls on the government to step in and potentially end the dispute, Labour Minister Al Hawkins said the provincial government will remain neutral, balancing the rights of employees and employers.

"If the union believes that the employer is continuing to engage in bad faith bargaining and are seeking binding arbitration on that matter, they have recourse with the Labour Relations Board to pursue that complaint as the Board already has the authority under the current legislation to impose binding arbitration," Hawkins said in a release issued Wednesday.

"It is important that government respect the role of the Board which is comprised of representatives from both employer and employee organizations and is independent from government."   

With files from Garrett Barry and Terry Roberts

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