PRESS RELEASE: MARCH 31, 2009

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Workers locked out at potato chip plant in Calgary

Joe Attwood said most workers at the Old Dutch plant make $16 an hour and are looking for a 35 cent increase. (CBC)Dozens of workers have been locked out of the Old Dutch potato chip plant in Calgary.

Old Dutch shut down the plant on Sunday afternoon and about 170 employees -- including warehouse and production workers as well as truck drivers -- were walking a picket line by Monday morning.

"We've been without an agreement at our Old Dutch Foods Calgary plant for over a year and we had a proposal on the table for the past seven months," said Scott Keleman, national director of marketing for Old Dutch. "The lockout was really necessary to bring both bargaining units back to the table."

Joe Attwood, an employee and a spokesman for the picketing workers, disagreed.

"We were sitting at the table and they got up and walked away from us. We're ready to go back to the table," he said.

Doug O'Halloran, president of
UFCW local 401, said the dispute is over wages, benefits and union dues.

Most workers make about $16 an hour and are looking for a 35 cent wage increase, said Attwood.

"People actually eat more potato chips in a recession," he said. "The money we are asking for we believe is very reasonable."

Attwood added that the Calgary plant is an open shop - workers can opt out of the union - and the union wants all employees to pay dues.

O'Halloran said consumers won't likely notice much difference because there is an Old Dutch plant in Airdrie, Alta., as well as plants in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

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