Saskatoon

Court rejects petition to remove Saskatoon Co-op board during strike

A Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench judge has ruled against an attempt to force a special meeting to remove the current board of directors of the Saskatoon Co-operative Association.

Judge says petitioner trying to improperly influence board

Craig Thebaud was the driving force behind a petition that asked for a special meeting to remove the board of directors of the Saskatoon Co-operative Association.

A Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench judge has ruled against an attempt to force a special meeting to remove the current board of directors of the Saskatoon Co-operative Association.

The petition came in the middle of an acrimonious strike that has been running since Nov. 1. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1400 voted to strike over a proposed two-tiered wage structure.

In November, former Co-op worker Craig Thebaud organized a petition seeking to force the meeting. According to organizers, a special meeting could be triggered if 300 members of the Co-op signed the petition.

Under the new contract proposed by Saskatoon Co-op, current workers' wages and benefits would have stayed the same, while new employees would be hired on a new scale with lower pay and benefits.

In his decision, Justice Neil Gabrielson wrote the petition appeared to be an attempt by Thebaud to influence the Co-op.

"The material indicates that the applicant's motive in bringing the application is to influence the bargaining position of the Saskatoon Co-op in negotiations with the UFCW," Gabrielson wrote in his decision.

"If the application to remove the board of directors and replace them is therefore motivated for the benefit of future employees rather than for its members, the application could said to be for an improper motive."

The Co-op refused to hold the meeting shortly after receiving the petition, saying it didn't meet the necessary qualifications to force a meeting.

According to documents filed by the Co-op cited in the decision, roughly one-quarter of the people who signed the petition were either not Co-op members or their information was illegible. Almost half of the signatories were members of UFCW Local 1400.

 Thebaud formerly worked for the Co-op and also worked for the UFCW as a union representative.

In response to the petition, the Co-op filed an unfair labour practice complaint against Thebaud and the UFCW. The application is expected to be heard in June.

Earlier this month, 60 per cent of workers voted to reject the Co-op's latest offer.

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