Potato chip factory workers picket over labour dispute with company

Click to play video: 'Workers hit the picket line at Covered Bridge Potato Company factory in Hartland'
Workers hit the picket line at Covered Bridge Potato Company factory in Hartland
WATCH ABOVE: A nasty labour dispute has resulted in workers taking to a picket line outside the Covered Bridge Potato Chips factory in Hartland. Global’s Jeremy Keefe reports – Jan 5, 2016

HARTLAND, N.B. – Employees of Covered Bridge Potato Chips picketed outside a factory early Tuesday morning because the company does not have an agreement with its 32 unionized workers.

Sixteen production and maintenance workers braved the cold, carrying signs and chanting while operations continued inside.

Patrick Colford, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, said negotiations between the employees, who unionized several years ago, and the company have been at a standstill because the owner is not co-operating.

“He has no time, no respect for a union,” Colford said. “If he had respect for his workers maybe there wouldn’t be a need for a union.”

He said picketing is the first step to ensuring the workers’ voices are heard.

“I’ll reach out to my colleagues across Canada. Covered Bridge makes chips for other chip manufacturers [and] we’ll be calling for a boycott of their product in those other provinces as well,” he said.
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Several employees crossed the picket line while their co-workers stood outside.

Striking worker Betty Demerchant said she wishes the situation had not escalated to this point.

She said she received only a 10-cent raise in her five years of employment.

“Minimum wage went up to $10.30 [per hour] and I only got a 20-cent raise on my pay, so that 10 cents was actually taken,” she said.

Covered Bridge issued a statement characterizing the dispute as “a small bump in the road that many family-run businesses encounter.”

“We are motivated to getting past this,” the company said. “All production and business operations will continue without a slip in quality or service.”

Construction has been ongoing at the Covered Bridge factory, which is seeing its fourth round of expansion since it opened in 2008.

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