Saskatoon Co-op is taking the union representing its workers to the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, alleging they were connected to the creation of a petition to remove the Co-op’s board of directors.
The unfair labour practice application, dated Nov. 8, alleges UFCW 1400 and Craig Thebaud — the man who started the petition — violated the Saskatchewan Employment Act by engaging in bad faith bargaining through the creation and promotion of the petition.
It alleges Thebaud, a former union vice president and staff member, “acted implicitly or expressly as an agent of UFCW and operated under the implicit or explicit instruction, direction, and/or permission of the UFCW” when he began circulating the petition.
The petition in question began circulating after workers at the Saskatoon Co-op hit the picket line for a strike, calling into question the negotiating position of the board of directors and calling for its removal.
If the petition collects 300 valid signatures from Saskatoon Co-op members, it would trigger a members’ meeting and vote on the motion to remove the board.
UFCW 1400 called a strike for Saskatoon Co-op workers to protest the board’s insistence of implementing a second, lower tier of wages for new employees in any new collective bargaining agreement.
The application also alleges UFCW 1400 has been promoting the petition on its social media pages, and it’s been signed on picket lines organized by the union.
None of the allegations have been proven before the labour relations board.
Daniel Burke, a lawyer for Saskatoon Co-op who prepared the application, is asking the board to issue an immediate order to UFCW 1400 and Thebaud to preserve any communications they may have had with each other, and any posts, photos, messages or comments either have made regarding the petition.
Saskatoon Co-op is asking the labour relations board to nullify the petition, and for “further and other relief as the Board may determine appropriate.”
UFCW 1400 President Norm Neault has denied the union had anything to do with the creation of the petition, along with Thebaud.
“There is no connection to the union,” Thebaud said in an interview Friday afternoon. “I can see why if you were looking to file a frivolous lawsuit you might try to claim that.”
Grant Wicks, CEO of Saskatoon Co-op, told 650 CKOM Friday it’s clear to him there’s a connection.
He said the company has noticed social media posts from union members promoting the petition.
“UFCW members are pointing to this petition and saying this is how we’re going to get the things we need,” he said.
Thebaud said his group, Saskatoon Co-op Members for Fair Treatment of Employees, has collected more than the necessary 300 signatures. However, they’re waiting to collect more before submitting it, in case any are deemed invalid.
He didn’t know how many of the signatures were from union members, or family of union members.
“Co-op members aren’t happy with the way Co-op has been operating and how they’ve been trying to treat their staff members,” he said.
It’s unclear when the application will be heard by the labour relations board.