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Furniture makers that closed due to union 'intend to live their faith,' lawyer says

The lawyer for a furniture manufacturer from Devlin, near Fort Frances, Ont., who was called before the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Monday, says his clients cannot work with a union.

Gingrich Woodcraft lawyer tells Ontario Labour Relations Board that situation is unfortunate

Gingrich Woodcraft, a furniture maker in Devlin, near Fort Frances, Ont., unexpectedly closed its doors after its 25 employees voted to unionize. (Facebook)
The lawyer for a furniture manufacturer from Devlin, near Fort Frances, Ont., who was called before the Ontario Labour Relations Board on Monday, says his clients cannot work with a union.

Unifor filed complaints of unfair labour practice and starting an illegal lockout against Gingrich Woodcraft last week. The complaints were filed after the company unexpectedly closed within days of its workers voting to unionize.

In a statement, Gingrich Woodcraft said that as Christian business owners, their personal beliefs do not allow them freedom to work with a labour union.

"My clients feel that this is an unfortunate situation," said Daniel Matson, the lawyer for the company's owners, said at the labour board hearing.

"They feel bad that [workers] lost their jobs, but they intend to live their faith." 

Negotiations between Unifor and the company were continuing at the hearing on Monday afternoon.

The company may have trouble defending that statement before the labour board, according to a expert in trade union law in Canada.

Western University law Prof. Michael Lynk said the labour board generally will not try to force a company to reopen if it's found to be in breach of the Labour Relations Act. (Courtesy University of Western Ontario)
"Here is the problem: The company may have had four reasons why they decided to close. If one of those reasons was because of unionization — it doesn't have to be the primary reason, it just has to be one of the reasons —  that's sufficient to find a breach of the Labour Relations Act," Michael Lynk, a professor at Western University's faculty of law, told CBC News.

The labour board often awards damages to the union and the employees who lost their jobs, Lynk said.

However, the labour board generally will not try to force a company to reopen, he said. 

Gingrich Woodcraft, which employed 25 workers, had been in business for 18 years.

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