Workers locked out since December 2016 by their employer, D-J Composites in Gander, N.L., have been awarded employment insurance (EI) benefits, according to Unifor.
In most strike-lockout situations, workers are ineligible to collect EI, but the Social Security Tribunal found D-J Composites did not meet the test of a lockout as outlined in EI regulations and ordered that workers be awarded all EI benefits, said the union.
"This is a significant victory for our members both financially and in raising their spirits," said Lana Payne, Atlantic regional director. "Eighty-two weeks on a picket line is tough and demoralizing."
D-J Composites had issued the workers records of employment weeks after locking them out but this is not a normal practice in a strike/lockout situation and is usually done when severing the employment relationship, said Unifor. The workers filed for EI after receiving their records of employment.
The case focused on the definition of a "labour dispute," said the union. Although there was a strike vote and a vote rejecting the employer's latest offer, the union did not issue notification to the employer of any job action. The union fully intended to return the bargaining table to obtain a fair collective agreement, it said.
The tribunal said the actions by the employer demonstrated advance preparation for the lockout and there was no work stoppage and production continued, said the union, and the workers were "laid off in anticipation of a work stoppage, not because of a stoppage of work attributable to a labour dispute."
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