Article by Dale Carruthers Strathroy Age Dispatch
A union representing production workers at a Southwestern Ontario cannabis producer has filed a formal complaint against the company for allegedly firing a union organizer without cause.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW), the union representing some production employees at WeedMD, lodged the complaint under the Agricultural Employees Protection Act to the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal.
In documents submitted to the Guelph-based tribunal Monday, the union alleges WeedMD, a licensed cannabis grower with head office in London and operations in Aylmer, Strathroy and Bowmanville, fired an employee on March 3 after a supervisor reportedly overheard her discussing the union with a co-worker.
The fired staffer had met with a UFCW official two weeks earlier, signed a union card and was signing up co-workers — some of whom expressed fears of losing their jobs — outside of her working hours, the legal documents allege.
The woman was told she was terminated “without cause” and another organizer was also fired the same day, but she accepted a settlement and signed a confidentiality agreement, the documents allege.
“The timing of these terminations, within the context of the responding party’s ongoing anti-union campaign, is extremely suspect and can be seen as a reprisal against employees who support the union and who sign union cards,” UFCW says in the complaint.
The UFCW, which represents 250,000 workers across Canada, is demanding WeedMD reinstate the fired worker with full back pay and agree to a list of demands, including beginning bargaining, providing the union with contact information for all employees and giving it access to the Strathroy greenhouse to meet with workers and post communications.
“That would be the best-case scenario because, for the tribunal to conduct a hearing and issue a decision, we anticipate it is going to be many, many months,” UFCW national representative Kevin Shimmin said Tuesday.
“We’re hoping the employer will simply agree to do the right thing before we have to go through that whole process and both parties have to waste a lot of money and resources.”
A WeedMD spokesperson called the allegations made in the union’s complaints “baseless and without merit.”
“These ex-employees exited for reasons entirely unrelated to UFCW. I will add that WeedMD wholly respects and supports its employees’ right to organize. UFCW is now desperately attempting to attach itself to our ex-employees in order to appear relevant. The matters are entirely unrelated,” company spokesperson Marianella delaBarrera said in an emailed statement.
WeedMD 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.