Minister of Labor appoints mediator as Dominion strike enters 11th week

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The Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Labor has appointed a mediator in hopes he will help end a strike between Loblaw and Dominion workers that has entered its 11th week.Gerry Byrne said Monday afternoon that he made the decision after negotiations broke down.

“I made a decision this weekend, given that the talks broke down at the end of last week, given the gravity of the situation, affecting 1,400 employees … to hire a mediator,” he said. he declares.

Byrne said he decided to bring in Wayne Fowler for the job and advised both Unifor, the union that represents workers, and Loblaw.

“A mediator is a respected and informed third party, an independent third party who sits with the parties, both individually and collectively, and assists in the collective bargaining process, but who will also provide recommendations on terms of settlement. reasonable. part of the job that Wayne Fowler will do, ”Byrne told reporters after question period.

Fowler has “a great experience” and is “respected,” Byrne said.

Some 1,400 workers have been on the picket lines since August 22 and stores are still closed.

Announcement comes after a difficult week in litigation

Monday’s development follows a tumultuous week in which Unifor announced it would take legal action against the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, alleging that workers’ Charter rights were violated when officers showed up to a picket line.

Chris McDonald, the union’s negotiator, told a press conference last week that “the actions of the RNC were brutal, unnecessary and clearly violated the rights of these workers.”

The RNC did not comment on legal deposit, but had previously said, in response to the agent’s presence, that “all communications with strike leaders have been respectful.”

A few days earlier, there had been a glimmer of hope in breaking the deadlock when the two sides announced they were returning to the negotiating table. However, this negotiating session in St. John’s did not result in an agreement.

Unifor’s Chris MacDonald, on the podium, and lawyer Kyle Rees, right, speak at a press conference on Friday, highlighting their claim that workers’ Charter rights were violated when police came to a picket line. (Ted Dillon / CBC)

MacDonald told CBC News on Monday “there isn’t a lot of bite” in the date.

“Mediators can make recommendations as to what they think will solve the problem. Ultimately, they will bring the parties together and seek to help us find a solution, ”he said.

“But we already had the help of a government-appointed conciliator, Susan Whitten, who did her best to bring the parties together and tried to work between the two parties. ”

MacDonald said he was skeptical of another mediator’s outcome, but acknowledged that Fowler’s credibility is considerable and that he has experience in labor relations.

“It is possible that the Minister will take Mr. Fowler’s advice and seek to help us find a solution, but ultimately that will cause Loblaws to abandon their position, or any other means of finding a solution,” said Macdonald.

“I’m not sure that’s it, but eventually we’ll find out in the future. I can’t wait to get the call from [Fowler] and find out how to move that forward. ”

CBC News has asked Loblaw for comment.

The main issues of contention continue to be the end of the $ 2 hourly wage hike for essential workers implemented during the pandemic, and the push for more full-time jobs. The union says more than 80 percent of Dominion workers are part-time and that 60 full-time jobs were converted to part-time positions last year.

Learn more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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