Purity Factories workers took to the picket lines on Blackmarsh Road Friday morning, saying management had locked them out.
Last week, negotiations for a new labour contract at the well-known sweets factory broke off in a dispute over wages and sick leave. The 52 employees at the factory are represented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).
NAPE local 7013 president Carol Smith said the workers arrived at the factory as usual Friday morning, to find the doors locked and no management inside. All they were told, she said, was the lock-out was due to “safety reasons.”
“I don’t know what that means, unless they think we’re planning on doing some damage to the product or something, but we would never do that,” Smith said.
“That’s our livelihood, and our families eat that product. We would never do something like that.”
Smith said many of the workers weren’t surprised to find themselves locked out, since they had been told earlier in the week to “get their product finished and clean everything up.”
Thursday evening, the workers voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike, Smith said.
She said the workers asked for a wage increase of $1 over three years.
However, what the company came back with was unacceptable, Smith said.
“They wanted a five-year plan, with a 30-cent increase in (each of) the first three years, then 35 cents in each of the last two,” she said.
Smith said there’s also an issue with sick leave, specifically the amount of detailed information the company is requiring on doctor’s notes.
A message on the answering machine at Purity Factories said the office was closed Friday.
A message left by The Telegram asking for a comment on the situation wasn’t returned.
Smith said the workers will continue to show up for their shifts at the factory until they’re told otherwise.
Purity is a longtime producer of cookies, candy, syrups and hard bread.