Article by Dale Carruthers, London Free Press
A Southwestern Ontario pot producer’s termination of a worker who was organizing a union drive had a “chill” effect on the labour campaign, a complaint filed with a provincial tribunal alleges.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW), the union representing some production employees at WeedMD’s Strathroy operation, lodged the complaint under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.
The union alleges the London-headquartered company terminated the complainant, who’d met with a UFCW official and recruited coworkers to sign union cards, without cause on March 3, creating fear among other employees who supported the organizing effort, according to a submission filed by the union.
“Except for two employees, none of the other card-signers were willing to be openly known as union supporters for fear of being terminated,” the complaint alleges.
“Employees reported being targeted at work during paid working hours for questioning, interference, harassment and coercion by the (WeedMD) managers and supervisors.”
UFCW filed the 17-page submission last week at the request of the tribunal – the original complaint was filed on June 8 – after the two sides held a conference call, UFCW national representative Kevin Shimmin said.
The termination of the employee, who was hired in February 2018 and had a “spotless” work history, had a “chill” effect on the union drive, the union alleges.
“We did get a few more cards signed after that, but nothing compared to the initial card signing,” said Shimmin, who won’t disclose how many WeedMD staffers signed cards, citing legal restrictions.
WeedMD, a licensed cannabis grower with operations in Aylmer, Strathroy and Bowmanville, hasn’t officially recognized UFCW as the representative of its workers and has requested the union provide a list of names of all employees who have signed cards.
The pot producer has cited a previous ruling from the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, in a failed UFCW bid to organize workers at Markham-based medical pot producer MedReleaf, to justify its request.
But the union has denied that request, saying doing so could put the jobs in jeopardy, and argues the tribunal ruled the union had to show that it represents employees, not provide their names.
The Guelph-based tribunal has asked WeedMD to respond to the UFCW submission.
A spokesperson for the company disputed the latest allegations.