Saskatoon Co-op rejects petitions aimed at removing board during strike

The Saskatoon Co-op Board will not be holding a special meeting called for by some of its members.

Striking workers, petition signatories called for special meeting

Craig Thebaud said he won't give up on forcing a special meeting to remove the Saskatoon Co-op's board of directors.

The Saskatoon Co-op's board of directors has rejected petitions calling for a special meeting aimed at removing the board members.

Earlier this month, two separate groups of Co-op members launched petition drives to trigger a special meeting. The meeting would ask members to vote on removing the board of directors and talk about the CEO's decisions around collective bargaining.

On Nov. 1, workers in United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1400 voted to strike over a proposed two-tiered wage structure. Under the proposal, people who had recently been hired would be paid less than current employees doing the same work.

According to petition organizer Craig Thebaud, a special meeting could be triggered if 300 co-op members signed a petition.

However, the Saskatoon Co-op board decided against calling the meetings after seeking legal advice. 

"The petitions did not meet the qualifications or the specifications regarding the provincial Co-operatives Act, our own bylaws or our laws around member meetings," said board chair Grant Whitmore. "We decided then that we would not accept these petitions."

Thebaud called the board's response "disappointing."

"We expected the Co-op board of directors to follow the law and the Co-operatives Act," Thebaud said.

The Co-op said Thebaud's petition is the focus of an unfair labour practice complaint that's been taken to the province's Labour Relations Board. The complaint said the petition was a bad faith tactic designed to undermine collective bargaining.

"It's fairly frivolous," he said. "I can't imagine them being successful with it."

The complaint also mentions Thebaud is a previous employee with the UFCW.

Thebaud said the provincial registrar of co-operatives can force a meeting if the local co-op refuses to meet within 20 days. He is still waiting for a response.

As the strike nears the one-month mark, the Co-op board chair hopes a resolution can be found.

"We're certainly hopeful," he said. "Our objective is to see a negotiated settlement."

Negotiations between the Saskatoon Co-op and workers are expected to re-start later this week.


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