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They then filed an application for interim relief on Aug. 6, asking that the employer be barred from asking employees such questions and that union representatives be allowed to attend future interviews.

The board unanimously agreed to partially grant the union’s relief application pending the hearing on the unfair labour practices complaint.

The protracted labour dispute started on Dec. 5, 2019 when the CRC locked out Unifor Local 594 workers after they voted in favour of a strike mandate. The breakdown in negotiations between management and the union is attributed to several impasses, but pensions remained a linchpin issue throughout the lockout.

The dispute was characterized by blockades, court injunctions, arrests and hardball negotiating; a return-to-work agreement was included in the contract, but tensions remain, according to workers.

The agreement the parties reached includes a provision that “the Co-operative will investigate misconduct engaged in by Employees during the Lockout and Boycott and may mete out discipline.”

Part of the union’s submission, included in the board decision, states “Some members were advised by CCRL that their Lockout Meeting was solely investigative. Others were advised before or within Lockout Meetings of the potential for discipline against them.”

The decision says the employer argued that the union’s application should be deferred in favour of the grievance arbitration process. The employer also argued that the relief sought was too broad and said the employer’s representatives “wholeheartedly denied asking Union members how they voted, while two affiants from the Union have indicated they were asked about their votes.”

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