Talks break off between union, Labatt

Andrew Robinson
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NAPE claims company wants too many concessions from workers

Striking Labatt workers stand outside the plant on Leslie Street in St. John's in this Telegram file photo.

Talks towards a new collective agreement between Labatt management and striking plant workers in St. John's have broken down.

The conciliator told both sides Monday afternoon that there did not appear to be a point in continuing discussions on a new collective agreement for the time being.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) had recently tabled a new proposal. According to NAPE secretary treasurer Bert Blundon, the employer decided it would not respond to the proposal.

Blundon said the current impasse is a result of the multinational corporation's efforts to seek major concessions from its employees.

"We have no major items left at the bargaining table," he said. "Our goal this round of bargaining was to get a salary increase and to obviously maintain the rights and benefits we currently have under the agreement."

While the union is still working with Labatt on a salary structure, Blundon said he would not consider salary to be the main stumbling block. He cites Labatt's demands to make changes to insurance benefits for retirees, wage rates for new employees, temporary workers' rights, medical expense coverage, and pensions as the main sticking points.

"Those are the major issues, and as we indicated to the employer, we don't believe that there's any reasonable person that would agree to those types of concessions."

Labatt workers at the St. John's brewery initially engaged in a wildcat strike on March 25 after they were asked to train replacement workers in advance of an anticipated strike. Approximately 50 workers have been legally on strike since early April.

Wade Keller, Labatt's director of corporate affairs for Atlantic Canada, said the company intends to stay in touch with the conciliator with an eye towards eventually returning to the bargaining table with NAPE.

"We're willing to talk and work to get a deal, but only if there's a basis to get things done," he said.

As for the issues brought up by NAPE in relation to what it considers concessions requested by the company, Keller declined to directly address them in a public forum.

"I think it's best to leave the issues at the bargaining table with the two sides that are trying to reach a deal," he said.

"We have presented what we feel is a fair offer to the employees, one that continues to provide the employees with a very attractive employment package. At the same time though, we recognize the marketplace has changed and continues to change, and we need to work together - that's everyone at the brewery, the unionized employees and management - to ensure we remain competitive."

Keller said Labatt remains committed to playing a role in the community at large during the strike. Blundon meanwhile questions whether the company deserves the public's support.

"I think the second part of this whole debate, people of Newfoundland and Labrador have to question ... whether they want to continue to support the brand and the product when we have people from outside the province coming in taking the jobs here of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with a singular goal of making sure that people lose huge benefits that they've worked for - for many, many years," said Blundon.

He said the presence of replacement workers makes the bargaining process more of a challenge, but hopes Labatt will eventually return to the bargaining table with an offer that treats its employees fairly.

Blundon says the plant is operating well below its capacity, and said the striking workers have heard reports that some places are finding it difficult to get their full orders from Labatt.

"We've also observed beer in the stores now that's out of date. Where that beer is coming from, who knows, but we do know that as an industry, stale-dated beer is not an acceptable practice."

Told about the union's comment concerning plant operations, Keller said production is going well at the brewery.

"I know for a fact last week, beer produced on Tuesday was in the market by Friday," he said. "I would say that if you look hard enough, you can find beer that has been on the shelf for a little while. That's not an unusual circumstance that can be found just about at any time." Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Labatt, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

Geographic location: St. John's, Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • codfish
    May 27, 2013 - 10:23

    To - A business man (not) You are not a business man, you are an idiot!! If you were really in business you would know that the market dictates what wages are payed to unskilled labour not buffon statements. Go ahead, cut wages to the minimum and see how long you stay in business. Good businessmen know that to attract good workers/talent you have to pay for it. But I guess you want a group of low paid forigen workers who cant speak english to be you platfrom to success. Again, you comments show you are not a business man.

  • Transplanted west
    May 21, 2013 - 23:11

    Though I disagree with business man, as I am doing something I have never done before now and am considered unskilled, Imoved wêst and am working for an amazing non union employer who pays equal or better than union. That said the boy's at labatt better be careful as it is Likely just as cost effective to bring it from the mainland. Find the balance of job vs wàge or there won't be one, not that I endorse either side, just sit down over a cold one and figure it out for everyone

    • david
      May 22, 2013 - 13:16

      Congratulations on being responsible for your life, going out into the real world, and finding out it's not full of nothing but greedy boogeymen who exist simply to screw you over. Most people who get indoctrinated into the "union cult" never find that out.....they check their minds and free will at the door, and chant the slogans for the rest of their lives. So congrats and thanks for the inspiring read. (and just ignore BM...I do.)

  • david
    May 21, 2013 - 13:16

    Yes, unions can be thanked for higher wages....higher than employee skill, or effort would ever merit. And such wages, extorted without any relationship to productivity or efficiency (in fact, often accompanied by the opposite result) inevitably lead to unsustainable cost structures, insanely inefficient work rules, and the ultimate demise of the affected businesses. This is not new, this is not unexpected, and this is not complicated. Unions are now a cancer that eventually kill everyone they touch.

    • a business man
      May 21, 2013 - 22:26

      Good Post! I will just add that it is the unsustainable demands of unions that has made outsourcing such a profitable business. I have a law degree and a business degree, and nothing I learned in school has made me more money than my business initiatives aimed at finding cheaper labour. I have helped companies move jobs all over the world and got paid handsomely for it, all while not actually having a clue about exactly what the jobs entails. Honestly, my business would not be so lucrative if not for the never ending demands from unskilled workers that leads their employer to seek a cheaper solution. I just insert myself as a middle man, and collect my percentage of the savings as the company increases it profits by using cheaper labour. Once unions are dead, I may actually have to use my MBA learning to increase profits. But until then, it is just easier for me to specialize in outsourcing. At the end of the day, every company wants to reduce expenses, and taking wages away from unskilled uneducated workers is the best thing to do.

  • Duffy
    May 20, 2013 - 15:47

    Uesless greedy unions where everyone wants to get paid the same as someone in Toronto or Alberta where the cost of living is double. Go back to work or quit and give someone a job that wants it. Drink American Beer and let them walk the line like the Airport guys for 8 months.

  • Townie
    May 20, 2013 - 10:25

    Hey business man: do you have the guts to name your business????? See how quickly it will close when people find out what type of owner you are!!!!! Come on tell us???????? If you so strongly believe in your words,don't hide behind your business name!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gutless!!!!!!

    • david
      May 21, 2013 - 12:55

      "Tell us your name!!!! Gutless!!!!!" .....screams a bully called Townie.

  • Rick hanrahan
    May 19, 2013 - 18:41

    Stop whining. Your lack of education clearly shows. The company is publicly traded which means the shareholders want the most return on their investment, because its their money. I find it hilarious that these workers keep talking about scab beer, but aren't afraid to take shifts at long harbour while also receiving strike pay. Taking a job away from someone else. 36 dollars an hour is a lot of money to turn down. And to your foolish sarcastic comment about how people shouldn't get paid as much because they aren't as educated, that's reality. Invest in your future if you want to make more money. You need to ask yourself what you qualify for if they shut down the plant, instead of sooking and looking for the easy handout. You're already overpaid as it is.embrace it

    • Townie
      May 20, 2013 - 10:19

      Rick Hanrahan: you don't know what your talking about, people like you keep this province back in the dark ages, say hello to the managers next ntime you go to work as a scab!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Cavell
      May 20, 2013 - 10:35

      Rick Hanrahan, Labatt made over $900 million net profit, last year. AB Inbev, owners of Labatt., don't be so creedy share the wealth. Creed is the name of the game for this company!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Its obvious that you don't know what your talking about, stay on mainland were you belong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Joe
    May 19, 2013 - 14:50

    Union leadership has become too fearful of heavy-handed management tactics and buy in to the whole competitive market bullshit. This s the precursor to taking concessions. The whole of labour needs to take an historical stand and take the only kind of action that will matter, General Strike, was how it used to get done. Corporate thinking Union Leadership is too fearful for this course, and the price that usually follows with government initiated force to end it. We have our own issue in the labour world, with long-serving complacency right up there amongst our executives. I even had to fight against leadership trying to implement corporate style governance policies giving them more control of the membership. Never mind the money-grabbing types who, besides their paid-six-figure salaries, continually booking travel and expenses themselves rather than the duly elected representative for that job, and opting out of their benefit packages to collect 14% inlieu at the members expense! Members need to stand up and take back their unions. That's when it will make a difference!

  • Lynn
    May 18, 2013 - 22:31

    I agree with Townie. Did anyone in the media think of asking Mr. Keller what bonuses were handed out to the managers last year? Most corporations run on a 'bonus system' where quotas have to be met for managers or even employees to recieve a bonus of some sort.. I am very tierd of these imbeciles making comments on their assumptions. Believe it or not 'David' some of these employees have worked in the oil industry!!! I guess you should look at education and quailfications necessary to be employed at Labbatt. Perhaps your own intellectual abilites before making other comments.

  • david
    May 17, 2013 - 20:58

    Close the damn brewery. These eejots deserve unemployment and then nothing. Brewery workers in a stagnant market who have mistakenly confused their own "employability" prospects with that of oil industry workers ...... goodbye, you complete imbeciles.

    • Brenda L.
      May 18, 2013 - 12:43

      What qualifies you to pass judgement, David? Time and time again you demonstrate yourself as the ultimate imbecile. Pathetic little man.

    • david
      May 19, 2013 - 15:39

      I have an comment on this issue, and this is a comment board specifically supplied for doing so. There are "pathetic little men" (and women) that do show up here though, aren't there?

  • Townie
    May 17, 2013 - 15:46

    Mr. Wade Keller, Labatt Corporate Affairs Director, what was the profit at St. John's Labatt Brewery last year? Rumors are over $18 million, if this is true why are you asking for concessions? Do you have the guts to tell the people of NL & Lab. what the profit was?????? Waiting for your response Mr. Wade Keller,Labatt Corporate Affairs Director????????? Hope someone in the media has the guts to ask him this question next time he is in the news!!!!!!!!!!

  • ALan
    May 17, 2013 - 12:42

    Beer tastes beer to me knowing those greedy union workers arnt making it

    • a business man
      May 17, 2013 - 19:03


    • Townie
      May 19, 2013 - 08:24

      You can thank the unions for the salary you are getting today, only for unions you would still be making minimun wage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What you think about Allan???????? Businessman wants to kep your salary down so he can keep the profits for himself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • a business man
      May 19, 2013 - 13:15

      Honestly, I want everyone who does not have a post secondary education to earn minimum wage. These type of people are unskilled, uneducated and can be easily replaced. Yes, I want to keep the profits for myself, but I am happy to pay high wages for accountants, IT staff, engineers, managers, and other people who have post secondary education. I want the poorest people in our society to be those without post secondary education. that is my economic and social vision for our province and our country. I have never hid it and have openly stated this on numerous occasions. And I run my businesses accordingly because I am the owner and allowed to cut wages as I see fit. I will never every pay an unskilled uneducated worker anything more than the legal minimum wages because they are just unskilled and uneducated - they are not worth more.