Updated Nov. 12 at 1:45 p.m.
After a request from NorthernLife.ca, Rona issued the following email statement about a lockout involving workers at its Sudbury store:
“We have been negotiating with the union for nine months and we thought we had a deal. We were very surprised when the union rejected the final offer.
“There had been two deals that were submitted to a vote and both were rejected by the union members. The latest one was rejected on Oct 26. Following this, it put the union into a legal strike position and employer in a legal lockout as of 12:01 a.m. Nov. 12.
“Our goal was to negotiate an economically viable relationship. We are negotiating a two-year deal. We hope the situation can quickly return to normal. In the meantime, our clients can be served by our staff at RONA Val Caron.”
Carl Danuk found himself locked out of his long-time workplace Nov. 12, picketing on the sidewalk with his coworkers in the pouring rain.
He and the 13 other employees at Sudbury's Rona Store on Barrydowne Road were locked out by the company as of 12:01 a.m. The workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175.
“It's a sad morning so far,” said Danuk, who works in the corporate-owned store's lumberyard as a shipper/receiver. “We'll keep strong and hopefully we'll get somewhere.”
NorthernLife.ca reached out to Rona for comment on the lockout, but the company did not immediately respond.
However, the following letter to employees and customers was posted in the store's windows Thursday morning.
“After more than nine months of negotiations with the UFCW committee and members working at the Sudbury store, a negotiated Collective Agreement has not been reached,” said the letter, signed by Georgina Karadinias, director of human resources at Rona Canada.
“As a result, both parties are in a legal strike/lockout position in accordance with the Labour Relations Act.
“Rona has made the decision to suspend the store operations and exercise the legal right to lock out the UFCW members effective today, and continuing until further notice.
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused our customers. We will continue to be available to service our customers in our neighbouring Val Caron store.”
The union said although negotiations started some time ago, the two parties have only met a half-dozen times.
“We've reached out to the company for the last few weeks, and they won't even call us,” said UFCW union representative Jeff Barry, who was walking the picket lines with the workers Nov. 12.
One of the company's demands centres on the right of some of the store's veteran workers to refuse Sunday work, he said.
Under the Employment Standards Act, those retail employees hired before Sept. 4, 2001 have the right to refuse work on Sundays, Barry said. This provision applies to eight of the store's employees.
He said the store does operate on Sundays with more junior employees, and the veteran workers are willing to sub in when there's an emergency. But they don't want to work Sundays as part of their regular shift, Barry said.
“The union believes it's against the law to break the Employment Standards Act, and that's what the company's proposing to do,” he said.
A press release from UFCW said the union is preparing to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour asserting that its members are being subjected to reprisals for exercising their rights to refuse Sunday work.
“To lock out our members because they want to maintain their legal right to refuse Sunday work and achieve a fair collective agreement is an extreme position to take,” said UFCW Local 175 president Shawn Haggerty, in the press release.
“As long as this employer continues to keep their employees locked out in the cold, the union will be standing right next to them.”
It's also preparing to bring charges against the employer at the Ontario Labour Relations Board for bargaining in bad faith.
UFCW said it's made a number of requests to meet with the employer, but Rona has refused to come back to the bargaining table.
The employer gave the union notice at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 of its intention to lock the Rona workers out hours later, the press release said.
The picketing workers are asking the public not to cross their picket line or to shop at any Rona locations until the labour dispute is resolved.