The 23 members of CUPE local 4193 received strong encouragement from a packed meeting hall in Allardville on Tuesday night. The workers are now into their fourth week of being locked out of the Red Pine solid waste landfill by their employer, the Chaleur Regional Service Commission (CRSC).
Serge Plourde, a labourer at the landfill and president of CUPE Local 4193, told the NB Media Co-op that the approximately 180 community members who filled the Golden Age Club hall on March 10 were neighbours and friends and others from across the region.
“All the workers are feeling encouraged by this show of support from our community,” stated Plourde. “Local people, businesses and organizations along with our brothers and sisters from across the province are delivering food and financial support for our members. It is an amazing show of support for all our members.”
The poster that invited everyone to this open meeting stated: “The CRSC is led by the mayors of Bathurst, Petit-Rocher, Belledune, Pointe-Verte, Beresford and Nigadoo. They are responsible for the lockout. To break up the union, they hired scab replacement workers who are paid almost $15 more per hour than the locked-out employees. This is unacceptable and disrespectful.”
At the meeting, CUPE representatives provided community members with an update along with an information sheet about the lockout. Plourde reported strong support at the meeting for CUPE’s call to end the lockout for the workers.
Community members expressed concern with the current situation. In particular, there were questions about the lack of local representation from the Allardville area on the CRSC board. The four Local Service District (LSD) seats on the CRSC board are presently filled by representatives from other areas in the region.
Concerns were also expressed that more and more people from outside of the Allardville and Saint-Sauveur area are working at the landfill site. The landfill was established in Allardville with the support of local residents with the understanding that the site would employ only people living in the immediate region.
Community members at the meeting also called for anti-scab legislation in New Brunswick. This legislation currently exists in Quebec and British Columbia. It prevents employers from hiring “replacement workers” during a strike or lockout. Hiring scabs is disrespectful of both the workers and the collective bargaining process, because it prolongs disruptive job actions without an attempt to conduct fair negotiations.
The CRSC’s use of the courts to order an injunction was raised as another employer tool leaving workers without pay or benefits. The injunction at the Allardville landfill restricts to six the number of CUPE members on the picket. This prevents the workers from blocking scabs from entering their work place. At the meeting, the question was raised if municipal administrators are in a planned effort to destroy unions in New Brunswick.
Everyone at the Allardville community meeting wanted to know how they can support the workers during this difficult time. The lockout has left the CUPE members “without their normal pay or benefits.”
The workers encouraged everyone to sign their online petition, contact the local mayors and LSD representatives, and show support on social media. The lockout of CUPE Local 508 outside workers in Fredericton ended after three days after community members showed strong and vocal support for the workers.
All the CUPE 4193 members want to continue working while negotiating their new contract with their employer. They have been without a contract since December 2017. Now they want the lockout to end immediately so they will be able return to their jobs while their contract is negotiated in a fair manner.
The 23 landfill workers are hosting a public rally on Thursday, March 12 starting at 11am at the Municipal Building (2471 Main Street) in Belledune. The mayor of Belledune, Joseph Noel, is the chairperson of the Chaleur Regional Services Commission. A delegation of CUPE 4193 members will be delivering the petition signed by over 1200 community members to the mayor.
Brian Beaton is a reporter and the community calendar coordinator for the NB Media Co-op.