Nfld. & Labrador

Labour unions rally in Gander to support locked out aerospace workers

Union leaders from across Newfoundland and Labrador gathered in Gander Thursday to rally behind locked out D-J Composites workers who spent the holiday season on the picket line.

D-J Composites workers were locked out by American-owned company in December

Locked out employees at D-J Composites in Gander stand at a rally hosted by Unifor on Thursday afternoon. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Union leaders from across Newfoundland and Labrador gathered in Gander Thursday afternoon to rally behind locked out aerospace workers who spent the holiday season on the picket line.

D-J Composites locked out 33 employees on Dec. 9, after the union denied a contract offer from management.

Lana Payne, the Atlantic director of Unifor, called that offer "pretty horrible," adding said it include five-year wage freezes for union members.

Payne said the union voted in favour of a strike, but held off to continue bargaining with the company — and that's when D-J Composites locked its workers.

"It's really, really challenging when you have an employer that locks out a group of workers and says, 'We had no other choice,'" said Payne.

"Well there were lots of choices, many options that they could have looked at."

Payne said the company is refusing to bargain with union representatives and skipped a planned bargaining session earlier this month.

We're just asking for a half decent wage to support our town.- Will Davis

She also said the company is not using services provided through the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour, including a conciliator that's been in place since August.

The employees have been working without a contract for the last two years, according to Payne.

"They chose to put our people on the streets," said Payne. "When you see an employer doing that you know it's going to be a tough road ahead."

Provincial support

D-J Composites employee and union member Will Davis has spent 15 years working for the company.

"It's nice to see all these unions come out today and support us," said Davis. "It just shows that as Newfoundlanders we do stick together, unionized or non-union."

Davis said he and his fellow workers are asking for what he called fair wage increases.

"To me this company should come back to the table. We're not asking for millions or thousands of dollars," he said.

"We're just asking for a half decent wage to support our town."

Company Response

A spokesperson for D-J Composites said the company is working on a response to the union's claims.

Last month, it said in a statement that said slow economic times had hit their operation, but they continued to employ more staff than required to help workers out.

D-J Composites Inc. and employees, members of Unifor Local 597, are in a labour dispute. (D-J Composites Inc.)

"This workload decline and the lack of future orders was transparent to everyone," the company said.

"During collective-bargaining, the parties agreed to a number of issues. The talks were professional. Ultimately, a final offer was presented by the employer representing the total economic package the company was financially prepared to consider."

The company said the average hourly rate for locked out workers is $16.20 and the rejected company offer would have seen the average hourly rate increase to $16.74 on April 1, 2017.