Watch above: labour strife at Richardson Milling as company locks out employees
SASKATOON – Thirty-four members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1400 have set up picket lines outside the Richardson oat mill just north of Martensville, Sask.
The employees were locked out Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. after the union issued a strike notice last Friday.
The main point of contention is wages.
“A lot of the operators and tradespeople are significantly paid less than other individuals in the same type of milling operation,” said UFCW president Norm Neault.
Under the current collective agreement, Richardson Milling said employees are eligible for pay increases based on performance; however, the union is calling for across-the-board wage increases.
“For the total amount of employees there’s been say an increase of two per cent, you may get some of that, you may not,” said Neault.
The workers’ contract expired in October 2013, and the union and employer have been in negotiations for the past ten months.
“In our final offer, we provided employees with the same terms and conditions they have now, along with wage increases, which are above market level,” said Tracey Shelton with Richardson International Ltd.
Richardson Milling said company managers have been flown in to keep operating the mill.
The company bought the mill from Viterra in May of last year.
Neault said the mill is an important part of the Martensville community.
“A lot of those individuals live in that neighbourhood, (they live) close to it. And I think they’re willing to take less money, they have been,” he explained.
“But I think the company’s taking a little bit of advantage of that.”
The company said it remains hopeful the dispute will be resolved; however, it was not able to provide a timeline for a return to negotiations.