Ruling unionizes AU workers in Sask.

Former Agricore United (AU) workers at grain handler Viterra’s Saskatchewan elevators or Regina head office who are in the same scope as the company’s unionized workers are now also union members.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) made an interim ruling to that effect Tuesday while it plans a major bargaining unit review for Canada’s largest grain company, which formed in 2007 through the merger of AU into Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

“The purpose of this review will be for the (CIRB) to review any supplementary evidence and submissions relevant to the issue of how the bargaining units should be changed, if at all,” the CIRB wrote.

Unionized workers at Saskatchewan elevators and the Regina head office, previously employees of SaskPool, have been and still are represented by the Grain Services Union (GSU).

“In summary the CIRB’s decision does not say that GSU’s current Viterra bargaining units are inappropriate, but finds that a review is in order since a sale of a business occurred as defined by the Canada Labour Code,” the GSU said in a release Wednesday.

The board’s ruling means AU workers who are employed by Viterra in country operations and maintenance jobs in Saskatchewan are included in GSU’s current country operations and maintenance bargaining units in the province.

By extension, the GSU said Wednesday, the CIRB’s decision also means former AU employees who came to work in scope at Viterra’s Regina head office are included in the GSU bargaining unit covering the head office of the company.

The CIRB ruling gave the GSU and Viterra 30 days from March 10 to see if the union and the company can reach an agreement on the structure of bargaining units throughout Viterra’s operations.

Failing that, the CIRB will take submissions from the union and company and/or hold more hearings, then make a final determination itself, the union explained.

Decisions to be made include whether Viterra office workers who remained in Winnipeg and Calgary after the AU/SaskPool merger would be covered under an expanded “office” bargaining unit.

The GSU said Wednesday that it plans to ask for a 10-day extension of the CIRB’s time limit.

“GSU will be communicating with Viterra management during the next few days as we complete our analysis of the CIRB’s interim decision and we will be taking the next steps to ensure that employees have the coverage and security of a union contract,” GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner said in the release.

These talks follow several months of labour unrest at Viterra in Saskatchewan last summer, when the company and union couldn’t agree on contract terms. Regina office workers were on strike from July through to mid-September, while country operations and maintenance workers took limited strike action.

The CIRB last year also certified the GSU to represent separate new bargaining units for Viterra’s specialty crop and bean plant at Carman, Man., and for its country elevator and “agri-sales” workers in Manitoba.

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