Court deals blow to Labatt wildcat strike

Workers prohibited from blocking traffic to and from St. John's plant

Published on April 9, 2013

Picketers at the Labatt brewery on Leslie Street in St. John's stand on their picket line Monday afternoon after a court injunction was issued preventing strikers from impeding traffic to and from the facility. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

 

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled Monday that Labatt workers engaged in a wildcat strike cannot block access to the company's St. John's facility.

Labatt Breweries Newfoundland applied to the court last week for an injunction against members of Local 7004 of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).

Justice Donald Burrage ruled that workers cannot obstruct people coming and going from the Labatt building on Leslie Street. They must also take down tents they have set up and remove all other objects they've brought to the area where they've been picketing since March 25.

Lawyer Sheila Greene, representing NAPE, argued there was already a mechanism in place to deal with the matter via an arbitrator with the labour relations board. The employer filed a grievance on March 26.

However, Burrage said there was enough evidence to indicate the matter was a case of nuisance, with issues pertaining to the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code.

In affidavits filed with court, Labatt cited dozens of incidents when illegally striking workers blocked people from gaining entrance to the property and leaving it.

It also referenced instances when nails and other objects were placed in front of the entranceway, and one case when a person jumped in front of a commercial vehicle. Police were called to the site on multiple occasions.

Evidence not contested

Burrage noted that the evidence brought forward by Labatt was not contested by counsel representing NAPE.

He said the actions taken by workers made it evident that irreparable harm had come to the company. The judge cited the loss of goodwill and a damaged business reputation.

Workers started the wildcat strike in response to a request from Labatt to train replacement workers.

The same issue was the precursor to a wildcat strike in 2005. Following 21 days of legal job action, that labour dispute ended when workers voted to ratify an eight-year contract.

That contract expired at the end of last month. As of midnight last night, the 50 workers represented by NAPE were in the position to hold a strike vote.

Burrage said his ruling will remain in effect even in the event of legal job action by the workers.

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TeleAndrew