November 9, 2018 4:26 pm

Saskatoon Co-op files unfair labour practice in ongoing strike

Saskatoon Co-op alleges Craig Thebaud and UFCW are engaging in unfair labour practice through a petition to seek the removal of the board of directors.

Ryan Kessler / Global News
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Saskatoon Co-op is asking the province’s labour relations board to determine whether a union and an individual are engaging in unfair labour practice.

The company alleges United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local 1400 and Craig Thebaud are utilizing a petition seeking a special meeting to remove Co-op’s board of directors as a bad faith tactic to undermine the bargaining process.

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READ MORE: Petition calls for removal of Saskatoon Co-op’s board of directors

Roughly 900 workers walked off the job on Nov. 1 after the two sides were unable to reach a deal on a new contract.

The company said it wants to introduce a second-tier wage scale in order to remain viable, which the union opposes.

Shortly after the strike started, a Facebook page appeared seeking 300 signatures to force Saskatoon Co-op to call a special members meeting to possibly remove the current board.

The group wants the board to block the two-tier wage scale that would put new hires on a lower pay scale than existing workers.

Co-op said this is an unfair labor practice, alleging Thebaud is a former UFCW representative and “acted implicitly or expressly as an agent of UFCW.”

“Craig Thebaud has publicly taken credit for organizing the petition,” the company said in its labour board filing.

“However, Craig Thebaud was not initially forthright with media and concealed his employment history with UFCW and his role as a union representative assigned to Saskatoon Co-op.”

READ MORE: Local business owners say Saskatoon Co-op picket line having negative impact

Thebaud did not address the allegations made by the company, instead saying in a statement to the media on Friday the group is made up of concerned Co-op members.

“Clearly the Saskatoon Co-op is attempting to intimidate us with their lawyers, but our group will not be intimidated,” Thebaud said in his statement.

“We intend to continue gathering signatures on our petition and look forward to formally filing our request for a special meeting with the Saskatoon Co-op in the coming days.”

Co-op said the UFCW and Thebaud are engaging in a bad faith tactic.

“The respondents are attempting to utilize the petition to improperly undermine the governance of Saskatoon Co-op and to improperly interfere with the governance of Saskatoon Co-op and the collective bargaining process,” the company said.

None of the allegations have been proven before the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board.

READ MORE: Co-op workers back on the job in Moose Jaw

Co-op is seeking an order for the UFCW and Thebaud to withdraw the petition, and not to destroy any evidence, including all correspondence between the union and Thebaud.

A hearing date has not been set and the parties are not scheduled to return to bargaining until Nov. 29.

The UFCW and Moose Jaw Co-op agreed to a two-tier scale on Nov. 6 to end a labour dispute.

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