DEVLIN, ONTARIO - Wood components firm Gingrich Woodcraft, which shuttered its Ontario plant five days after employees voted to join the UNIFOR union, must pay its employee 35 weeks pay, beginning retroactively from August 17, the time of the closure. Owner Leon Gingrich told the Ontario Labor Relations Board he will soon sell the business. 
 
The custom cabinetry components manufacturer in Devlin, Ontario was closed by its owners in August when workers at the factory voted to unionize and join Unifor. President Leon Gingrich claimed his Mennonite religious beliefs precluded him from working with a union.

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Unifor brought a case against Gingrich Woodcraft Inc., and its owners Leon Gingrich, and Larry Steiner, and announced Oct 15 that a settlement had been reached - though terms were not disclosed. Now the Labour Board has released the terms of the settlement, which stipulate the  the sale of the business as an ongoing concern, and suggest the continuation of its organized union status. 

"The responding party [Gingrich Woodcraft] has advised that they are currently in negotiations for a sale of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. as a going concern and expect a sale to take place shortly," said the Board in its summary. "The responding party  [Gingrich Woodcraft] will advise any purchaser of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. of any outstanding liability pursuant to this consent order and make its best efforts to incorporate an agreement by the purchaser to adopt this liability as a term of the sale agreement. 
 
In a judgment dated October 1 but posted recently, the Ontario Labor Relations Board issued its findings:  
 
"The parties to these applications attended the board and after some lengthy negotiations, with the assistance of the board, entered into a memorandum of agreement and consent order. They are commended by the Board for resolving applications which raised difficult issues." The contents are as follows:
 
  • WHEREAS the union engaged in an organizing drive with respect to the employees of the responding party at its facility in Devlin, Ontario and filed an application for certification on August 5, 2015 (Board File No.1213-15-R);
  • AND WHEREAS the union was successful at the representation vote which was held on August 12, 2015, and the Ontario Labour Relations Board ("Board") certified the Union as bargaining agent for the employees of the responding party in a certificate issued August 21, 2015;
     
  • AND WHEREAS as a result of the successful union representation vote, the responding party closed its business and permanently laid off all of its employees, on August 17, 2015 and cited "faith" as their reason for doing so; 
     
  • AND WHEREAS the union filed unlawful lockout and unfair labour practice complaints with the Board (Board File Nos. 1366-15-U and 1367-15-U);
NOW THEREFORE the parties agree to resolve their outstanding differences with respect to these matters on the following terms and conditions and request that the Board issue a consent order incorporating their agreement:
 
1.   The applicant agrees to withdraw the application in Board File No. 1367-15-U as against Leon Gingrich and Larry Steiner;
 
2.   The responding party, Gingrich Woodcraft Inc., agrees to pay to each employee in the bargaining unit all outstanding wages and monies owing up until the date of the plant closure, August 17, 2015, in addition compensation of 35 weeks' wages at their regular hours and wage rate, as a salary continuation. Payments will be made to each employee on a bi‑weekly basis, effective the date of the Board's consent order. Retroactive payments will be made on or before October 15, 2015 covering the period August 17, 2015 to the date of the Board's consent order in one lump sum payment, minus monies already received as pay in lieu of notice;
 
3.   The responding parties recognize the union's bargaining rights pursuant to the Board certificate dated August 21, 2015;
 
4.   The responding party has advised that they are currently in negotiations for a sale of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. as a going concern and expect a sale to take place shortly. The responding party will advise any purchaser of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. of any outstanding liability pursuant to this consent order and make its best efforts to incorporate an agreement by the purchaser to adopt this liability as a term of the sale agreement.
 
5.   The responding party undertakes that as part of the sale agreement the responding party will include a warrant to the purchaser that the responding party recognizes that Unifor is the certified bargaining agent for the employees of the responding party (as evidenced by a copy of the Ontario Labour Relations Board certificate attached to the sales agreement) and that the purchaser is the successor employer pursuant to section 69 of the Act and that, in the responding party's view, the purchaser is thereby obliged to rehire the former employees of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. In this regard, the responding party agrees not to oppose any application pursuant to section 69 of the Act with respect to Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. and the purchaser filed by Unifor.
 
6.   The responding party further agrees to state in the sales agreement that it endorses the skills and abilities of its former employees and recommends these employees for future employment by the purchaser.
 
7.   Should this sale not take place, the 35 week salary continuance will be paid by Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. in any event;
 
8.   The parties agree that should any former employee of Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. be rehired by Gingrich Woodcraft or a successor employer, any employment income earned from Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. or successor will be deducted from the abovementioned 35 weeks' salary continuation. Should the employees not be re-hired or decide not to return to work at Gingrich Woodcraft Inc. or its successor, or if the employment ends for whatever reason prior to the full 35 week salary continuation being paid, the salary continuation will resume until the full 35 weeks is paid. Should employees receive a lesser rate upon being rehired, they will be topped up to their regular rate prior to August 17, 2015, for the full 35 week period.
 
9.   The responding party undertakes that it will notify the union forthwith if and when the company is sold as a going-concern;
 
10. The responding party, Gingrich Woodcraft Inc., agrees to a declaration from the Board that by closing the plant and permanently laying off all of its employees because they chose to be represented by a trade union, it has violated the Labour Relations Act, 1995. The responding party's position is that working with a trade union is against their religious beliefs.

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