Lockout for unionized CESSCO employees in Edmonton reaches 1 year

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You've likely spotted them if driving along 99 Street in south Edmonton: a group of workers picketing outside the building that's locked them out. The doors have been closed to them for one year and as Morgan Black reports, they're still outside and with added support. – Jun 28, 2021

A group of unionized workers in Edmonton has held the picket line for one year, braving extreme heat and cold.

In June 2020, about 30 employees — members of the Boilermakers Local 146 — were locked out of Edmonton-based CESSCO Fabrication and Engineering after not being able to come to an agreement over pay and pensions.

Read more: Edmonton set to reach 40 C mid-week as 11 heat records broken Saturday across Alberta

“We got the lockout notice when we were doing collective bargaining,” recalled picketer Darcy Kooznetsoff.

The group has been picketing on the side of the road on 99 Street and 73 Avenue ever since.

Read more: Unionized CESSCO employees locked out for months over wage and pension disagreement

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Picketers told Global News that in recent weeks support has grown.

On Monday, which marked one year of the lockout, about 50 supporters gathered outside CESSCO. The group was joined by members of the official Opposition, including Rachel Notley, and the Alberta Federation of Labour’s Gil McGowan.

Union member Jeff Burns said CESSCO replaced workers early on, including a few who crossed the picket line. He said current employees did not arrive at work on Monday.

“We were here bright and early to get set up for the [rally]. The clock ticked to the time we expected to see them roll in. Not one of them came.

“No one in administration. They completely shut down. That’s the answer we got.”

Burns said the past year has been tiring at times. Only a few unionized employees remain that aren’t working elsewhere across Alberta.

Picketers outside CESSCO Fabrication and Engineering Ltd. on June 28, 2021. Cam Cook/Global News

“I wish there would be some change. It would be nice to see some movement and have dialogue that would push us back in there,” he said.

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“It’s nice to see the support within the labour community.”

Read more: Ottawa tables back to work bill to end strike at Port of Montreal

McGowan said marking 365 days on the picket line is a sad moment.

“They wanted to work. They wanted to negotiate. We are here to support them as we have been since day 1.

“These workers have persevered for a year and been here when it’s -30 and when it’s +30.”

“Almost four weeks ago we sat down with current president, Bernhard Maier. It was a positive lunch but no indication there would be movement,” Burns said.

In an email to Global News, Maier said he “will not comment on the current situation.”

“With this kind of turnout and the dedication we have from the members here, I do have hope this will get settled one day,” Kooznetsoff said.

Burns said there are no plans to stop picketing.

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