Viterra’s Man. elevator staff reject union

Non-union staff at Viterra’s former Agricore United grain elevators in Manitoba have voted to stay that way.

Country operations and maintenance workers at the company’s heritage AU facilities voted 149 to 34 between May 4 and June 8 against joining the Grain Services Union (GSU), the union and company reported Tuesday.

The vote — which didn’t include Viterra’s Winnipeg office staff, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool/AgPro Grain staff at Brandon, Boissevain or Carman or those at its Coulter Avenue facility in Winnipeg — was ordered in May by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). Ballots were counted Tuesday morning.

The GSU has been campaigning to represent about 200 eligible Manitoba employees since the non-union AU merged into SaskPool to form Viterra in 2007.

“Viterra has always believed that our employees should be given the opportunity to express their democratic right, and to have a voice in the important matter of representation,” chief operating officer Fran Malecha said in Viterra’s release Tuesday. “We are pleased that the CIRB has supported this process to determine the wishes of this group.”

“As a result of the vote, GSU will not be certified by the CIRB at this time as the collective bargaining agent in the unit of Manitoba country operations and maintenance employees,” GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner said in a separate statement Tuesday.

“We are disappointed with the results of the vote, but we respect the decision that has been made. We remain ready to assist employees in any way that we can. It is our intention to remain in contact with employees in Manitoba in the event there is a change in circumstances in the future.”

Viterra office and elevator workers represented by the GSU in Saskatchewan agreed to new five-year contracts in September last year, following three months of picketing by the company’s Regina head office staff. Unionized Saskatchewan elevator staff largely remained on the job through the busy summer season. The GSU still represents about 850 of Viterra’s employees on the Prairies. The AgPro Grain unit, covering heritage SaskPool employees in Alberta and Manitoba, voted in June 2008 to accept an offer that the Saskatchewan head office and country units rejected at that time.

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