Bracebridge, ON, Canada – Workers at mining supplier Fenner Dunlop have been locked out of their jobs after turning down a final contract offer, which included drastic changes to sick day provisions.
Fenner Dunlop unilaterally broke off talks to request a Ministry of Labor-sponsored contract vote. It was later turned down by 79%. The 60 workers are represented by United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7949 and make conveyor belts for mining operations.
Contract talks have been ongoing since late last year for a new collective agreement. In January, USW members voted 95% in favor of strike action if necessary, in a strong demonstration of support for their bargaining committee.
“At the beginning of negotiations, the company came with seven pages of concessions that would affect nearly every area of life at work, including repercussions for workers’ families,” said Dale Hogg, USW staff representative and lead negotiator. Some of the biggest issues continue to be related to paid sick days (short-term disability plan) and shift premiums that provide additional compensation for irregular shifts.
“As governments are being pushed to legislate paid sick days, it is unacceptable that this company is trying to whittle away the time that workers need, if they get sick,” said Marty Warren, USW District 6 Director (Ontario and Atlantic provinces). “This is especially galling in the context of a global pandemic.”
On Friday afternoon, February 15, workers were escorted out of the workplace, or called and told to not come in. Picket lines have since been set up outside the facility at 700 Ecclestone Drive in Bracebridge.
USW Local 7949 President Melissa Puccini Lott said that community support for USW members has been strong and the locked-out workers have appreciated it.
“This situation is relatable for many people,” said Puccini Lott. “Our members work hard, often at strange hours, and expect a fair contract and to be able to provide for themselves and their families. Fenner Dunlop has been chipping away at morale for years and this is just the latest issue. The company needs to end this lockout and get back to the table.”
Currently, there are no talks scheduled.
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