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Two-year stint on picket line over in Gander

The provincial government has brought in John Roil as an independent mediator in the labour dispute between D-J Composites and its employees in Gander. File photo
After nearly two years on the picket line, locked out D-J Composite employees in Gander finally have a collective agreement that will see them return to work. The lockout was implemented Dec. 20, 2016 and impacted 33 employees. - FILE PHOTO

Collective agreement will see D-J Composites employees return to work

The picket line shack outside of D-J Composites in Gander, that kept demonstrators warm for nearly two years, is gone.

The American-based company and Unifor, the bargaining agent for Local #597, have reached a collective agreement to end the lockout and get the 33 effected employees back to work.

The lockout was implemented by the employer, Dec. 20, 2016, after both parties couldn’t reach an agreement.

Unifor made the announcement, earlier today, Dec. 3, that a three-year agreement has been reached after going through binding arbitration.

The arbitrator sided with D-J Composites final bid, however, Unifor says the company consented to remove a merit based pay system it was looking for, and accepted step increases for wages.
As a result, the shack was removed over the weekend, according to Cabot LeGrow, one of the impacted employees.

And not having picket duty after nearly two years feels different.

“In the beginning it wasn’t so bad, because we weren’t expecting it to go on for so long,” he said. “The second winter was a tough slog, we were burning a cord of wood a month in a barrel.”

And while he’s happy about returning to work, he still has mixed emotions about it.

“While I’m very glad to see it over with, I’m going back to a company that really didn’t want me very much,” LeGrow said.

Adding, employees haven’t received a tentative start date for their return to work.

But overall, he’s just glad to see the matter come to an end and that his union stood by their side throughout the entire lockout.

“They done the best they could,” he said. “We were dealing with an awful employer.”

It was the work stoppage, implemented by Unifor back in September, he says, that helped bring the matter to an end.

Up until that point, binding arbitration couldn’t be reached.

“If they didn’t put on the work stoppage, this would still be ongoing,” he said.

Lana Payne, Unifor’s Atlantic regional director, said in a press release, the employees should be proud of what they accomplished.

“After two years on a picket line, defending their rights, and fighting for a collective agreement, our members can hold their heads high,” she said. “The solidarity we saw from across Canada made all the difference in bringing this dispute to a conclusion.”

The release also states Unifor will work towards a smooth return-to-work process for the employees.

Representatives of D-J Composites didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment. The Central Voice will update this story as more information becomes available.

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