Old Dutch workers locked out at Calgary

Union representatives in Alberta are calling for a boycott of Old Dutch potato chips after the company locked out its unionized workers at Calgary on Sunday.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 confirmed Wednesday that its members had been locked out at noon on March 29.

CBC reported Monday that about 170 workers, including warehouse and production staff and drivers, were picketing the facility.

The broadcaster quoted Scott Keleman, national director of marketing for Winnipeg-based Old Dutch, as saying the company and union have not reached an agreement in the past year and the firm has had a proposal on the table for a new agreement for the past seven months.

“The lockout was really necessary to bring both bargaining units back to the table,” he told CBC.

“We told the company we didn’t want a work stoppage: that we wanted to keep bargaining, but they chose to take a hard line,” UFCW Local 401 president Doug O’Halloran said in a release Thursday.

“In fact, our negotiating position is a response to the
recession. We asked for some guaranteed minimum hours of work, so our members
know from week-to-week what kind of money will be coming in.”

And Old Dutch is still making money and “lots of it,” O’Halloran said. “No industry is completely recession-proof, but snack food manufacturing comes
pretty close.”

CBC quoted a union spokesman as saying workers were looking for a 35-cent increase on wages averaging around $16 per hour, but the dispute “isn’t about big amounts of money,” O’Halloran said.

The union, he said, has asked for sick leave provisions, food safety language and a requirement that all employees in the bargaining unit be required to pay union dues, as is the case in most other unionized shops. “Old Dutch doesn’t give their chips away for free, so why are they interfering with the union’s right to survive?” O’Halloran said.

Old Dutch has operated in Calgary since 1970, making Old Dutch chips as well as store brands for companies such as Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sobeys and Co-op stores.

The company also operates a production facility at nearby Airdrie, as well as plants at Winnipeg, Lachine, Que., Hartland, N.B., and Minneapolis.

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