Union representing Dominion workers to file lawsuit against RNC

·3 min read

The union representing striking Dominion workers says it's filing a lawsuit against the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for showing up to a picket line earlier this week.

Chris McDonald, the union's negotiator, said at a press conference Friday afternoon that he was at Weston Foods in Mount Pearl on Tuesday night when officers arrived.

"I spoke to the police and I can tell you, they did the best they could to intimidate myself and more importantly our members," said MacDonald.

"The actions of the RNC were heavy-handed, unnecessary and clearly violated the rights of these workers."

The union plans to file a statement of claim on Nov. 5, claiming the Charter rights of workers were breached.

The RNC told CBC News late Friday afternoon it would not comment on the union's charter challenge.

The incident happed Tuesday night, when officers came to a picket line formed by workers at Weston Foods in Donovans Business Park in Mount Pearl earlier this week.

MacDonald said on Tuesday night that police told him they were preparing to arrest people for blocking trucks exiting the property. He said he wasn't sure why police were enforcing an injunction that doesn't exist, but was told police were enforcing the Highway Traffic Act. The union said the picket line outside of the bakery was peaceful.

"We're in the driveway. We're not even on the road," MacDonald said at the time.

On Friday, lawyer Kyle Reese, one of the lawyers representing Unifor, explained why he's working on the case.

"The right to be able to peacefully picket as this union was doing … is a vitally important activity. It's an activity that's protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said.

The police presence sparked backlash among politicians, with NDP Leader Alison Coffin blasting it as "an unnecessary use of police resources."

Unifor/Twitter
Unifor/Twitter

The day after officers were at the picket line, the RNC issued a statement that said "all communication with strike action leadership has been respectful" and the police force "remains focused on communication and education as it relates to public safety."

Talks break down again between Loblaw, Unifor

The announcement that the union plans to file a lawsuit against the RNC comes on the same day talks broke down between Loblaw and Unifor.

On Friday, MacDonald said Loblaw proposed a four-year deal, instead of three years, but it "fell far short" of something workers would accept.

"The company refused to improve upon their three-year offer by one nickel," MacDonald said.

Unifor/Twitter
Unifor/Twitter

Some 1,400 workers have been on the picket lines since Aug. 22. With no tentative deal, the strike will continue and stores will remain closed.

"One day longer!" a worker shouted at Friday's news conference.

"One day stronger!" the crowd replied

Just two days ago, the two sides agreed to get back to the bargaining table, with a session planned for Thursday in St. John's, according to the union.

The main issues of contention continue to be the company ending the $2-an-hour wage increase for essential workers, implemented during the pandemic, and the push for more full-time jobs. The union says more than 80 per cent of Dominion workers are part time and 60 full-time jobs were converted into part-time positions last year.

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