Union asks public to boycott Labatt

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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(From left) Frank O'Leary, president of NAPE Local 7004; Lana Payne, president of NL Federation of Labour; Carol Furlong, NAPE president, and Chris Henley, NAPE negotiator

The union representing about 50 striking Labatt workers in

St. John’s is urging the public to boycott the brewery’s products.

Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), said late Friday morning that with billions of dollars in annual profit, Labatt Brewing Co. and its parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev shouldn’t seek concessions from workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, who have been on strike for 2 1/2 months.

“After years of loyal service, these workers are faced with massive concessions, not only during their working career, but into retirement as well,” Furlong said at a news conference at the union’s headquarters. “A small group of workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have been targeted by the Goliath multinational company.”

Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, joined in the call for a boycott of the company’s products, including Labatt Blue, Alexander Keith’s, Blue Star, Budweiser and Kokanee.

“We are respectfully this morning asking for the support of Newfoundlanders and Labradors. We ask that they join with us in solidarity in our boycott,” said Payne, who said the strike was about workers’ decision to resist what she called “the race to the bottom” in the company’s demands, including asking workers to train their replacements — “strikebreakers,” she called them — in the event of a walkout. Working people are being squeezed at a time when companies make record profits but supposedly find it difficult to find skilled labour, she added.

“This is not a case of needing concessions. This is a case of corporate greed,” she said.

Wade Keller, Labatt spokesman, said a boycott — happening as summer approaches, the most profitable time of year for beer producers — would, ultimately, hurt not just the company, but many others, including the workers.

“The union should be very concerned. If people stop drinking our beer, they may not start again after the strike is over, and if that’s the case, we won’t need as many workers,” he said. “The union should also be concerned about other people that a boycott could affect, such as distributors, store workers, bar staff, people who work in festivals and people who benefit from those festivals. A boycott can affect a lot more people than just our company.”

Neither side would discuss specifics in the company’s offer or concessions demanded. Union negotiator Chris Henley said the union has been through several negotiating sessions with a conciliator present.

“Labatt has not changed its position,” he said. “The employer hasn’t changed its position since the onset. The major concessions they put on the table at the beginning of negotiations are still there. Their first offer has been their only offer.”

Keller said the company has collective agreements similar to its current offer at many of its other breweries.

“We believe workers at all of our plants in Canada should basically be treated the same,” he said. “It’s not clear to us why NAPE thinks that people at the St. John’s brewery should be treated differently. We’ve signed similar collective agreements in Creston (B.C.), Edmonton, Halifax, and so far NAPE hasn’t been willing to negotiate.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Labatt, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, Anheuser-Busch InBev Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour Blue Star Budweiser

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Edmonton

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Recent comments

  • david
    June 15, 2013 - 15:10

    Well, after seeing the union's snazzy online ad here asking people to boycott Labatt's, I now fully intend to buy at least a couple of dozen Blue in support of the brewery's legal obligation to tolerate such utter insanity. You people are simply out of your preciously small minds, and don't deserve jobs of any kind.

  • NL TURF
    June 13, 2013 - 21:49

    Concessions?? Why concessions?? The NL economy is booming and yet major companies and small companies are looking for concessions from their employees. It just doesn't make sense. When will these greedy companies stop the race to the bottom?? Duuuuu, new hires will have to expect less!! This seems to be the norm in recent contract talks. Why?? Our Province is leading the way in growth across Canada!! So why concessions? Now is the time to reward these employees who have suffered years of megre wage increases and limited benifits. Yep, the word GREED comes to mind!! A company like Labatts should be leading the way on improving past, present and future employees but ohhhhhhhhhh nooo lets, direct the workers to accept concessions, for present, past and future employees. My advice to Labatt - haul in your horns and negotiate with this small Nape local, without concessions. Your company has everything to gain by doing this and a lot to lose if they don't.

  • doug
    June 12, 2013 - 07:51

    Its no wonder outside companies do not invest/set up shop in NL, striking is rampant and in some cases the ordinary resident suffers at the benefit of the unions, sad when the largest employer is the government.

    • a business man
      June 13, 2013 - 06:37

      Agreed!. Why would someone chose a jurisdiction with a hostile and entitled workforce? I advise all my clients to open their business in the USA, in a right to work state. Minimum wage is just over $7 and unions are pretty much non-existent. Here, even if you don't start with a union, the workers have the right to join a union and demand more. Frankly, I don't want unskilled workers who have the ability to bargain for more, and I don't want to be forced to recognize and negotiate with a union. I am a unilateral decision make and I want to determine what my workers are paid. From my point of view, owners have more control of their business in the right-to-work states.

  • Brett
    June 10, 2013 - 12:03

    Why is it relevant that Labatt's or Anheuser make billions? Why should profits in germany shore up the NL operations? All the local union should be looking at are the local market conditions. Do they ship the portion of their locally brewed product to BC? If BC is a highly profitable region why should NL workers get paid more for it?

    • Just wondering
      June 10, 2013 - 15:13

      It's simple Brett. When companies make billions and demand that the people who make their product accept less so they can make ever more, that's good business sense. When the people who produce the product don't want to accept less, that's greed. It's as if you accepted anything above minimum wage, you would be greedy... and a hypocrite.

    • Greg
      June 10, 2013 - 16:36

      It matters because everybody in Nfld thinks that someone, the government or their employer, owes them something much more than they are worth... If you want to get rich, make a decision, take a risk, and work hard to make the venture work... you don't get rich by working for someone else.

    • Just wondering
      June 11, 2013 - 11:29

      How much is a person worth? How much are YOU worth? Why should anyone be worth less than you.

    • a business man
      June 12, 2013 - 06:47

      Dear Just Wondering: I employ many people around the world, and my method for assessing a person's wealth is as follows: if the person does not have post secondary education, they are only worth minimum wage. I am worth far more because I went to law school and business school, and because I am able to convince someone to pay me a high wage. The unskilled uneducated worker cannot do the same because they do not have the same credentials. In opinion, anyone without a post secondary education is automatically worth less than someone with post secondary education. For one of my companies, we pay unskilled uneducated labourers who do back breaking labour minimum wage with no benefits or raises (ever), while me and the other silent investors recieve increasing profit cheques month after money. As the investors, we deserve more because we took the risk, and because the company is our property. The company was started to make us, the owners, more wealthy, not for any benefit to the workers. The workers are just the tools, and they will be replaced when cheaper workers become available.

    • Eli
      June 12, 2013 - 09:39

      You don't get rich by working for someone else, Greg? Come on man, ever hear of a Senator, Premier or Cabinet Minister in the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador?

  • Rick Hanrahan
    June 09, 2013 - 20:03

    Who is leading this union??? This has got to be the most absurd, ridiculous advice ever given to workers. Are the workers really this stupid? Do they not see that essentially they are talking their way out of jobs? They are just going to keep hiring local replacement workers. And contrary to what the unions might be telling everybody, not all the workers are mainlanders. They have hired plenty of local replacement workers for over 20 dollars an hour. I would leave my current job now if I was sure this strike would last at amount of time

  • Corporate Psycho
    June 09, 2013 - 18:14

    With any luck maybe Labatt won't need a spokesman either after the strike.

  • Nobody
    June 09, 2013 - 15:30

    Nobody wants to lose what they already have. If the salaries and benefits are as high as everybody says they are, it's difficult to side with the union. Sadly if we lose our unions, it will put our salaries and benefits back 50 years. It looks like both sides want public support but nobody releases any details.

  • Olderwiser
    June 09, 2013 - 11:17

    Wade Keller, unions are concerned about their members. They always have been but are you? You attempts to turn others against unions is clear. This employer can well afford this without giving up any luxury in their wealthy lives. You know it, they know it and we know it. They are so greedy and don't care about their employee's lives. Should the rich employer be the only one able to look forward to retirement with a decent quality of live?

  • carogers
    June 09, 2013 - 09:07

    So if Creston, BC Edmonton and Halifax jumped off a bridge should the St. John's Labatt workers jump too?? "It’s not clear to us why NAPE thinks that people at the St. John’s brewery should be treated differently" You do know where you can stick that attitude. Did each of the other breweries also have scab labour bused into the plant. Do their workers compare conditions here to where they came from and think the devil they know is better then the one they left behind??Nice that you think we should take what you threw at the other workers. Who thinks their "special" Mr. Keller??? The boycott request seems to have ruffled your feathers. If you are playing hard ball ...then so can the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador residents by supporting the workers. You will get your bonus at years end don't worry because that's is the ONLY thing management worry's about despite the lib service they offer about anything else. For those who may not know all managers are given budgets to work within at the companies years end all managers that pushed workers for more productivity and keep to the budget get thousands in bonus $$ while the workers get a bad back and calluses on their feet. Your not one bit worried about the boycott "ultimately" hurting workers you know that bonus cheque is tittering on the edge of your bank account. Mr. Keller your insulting attitude will not gain any inroads with the public. .... we are special... every single person in this province is worth ten of you. Is your boss telling you to get this settled now is he? That's how you earn that bonus $$ by doing their bidding. How's that working out for you? Good luck with all that. I prefer a nice Pinot Girgio myself so check me off the customer list.

  • Johnny
    June 08, 2013 - 21:11

    There are such great micro-brews in St. John's now, why would anyone still buy Labatts? Labatts should be careful - once more people discover how great the others are, they may not come back...

    • NLerInUSA
      June 15, 2013 - 08:35

      This is true to the stikers too!

  • Pensioner
    June 08, 2013 - 19:44

    What you should know is that many union members already stopped buying this brand. We have also asked family and friends to do so too. To bring in scabs was enough to turn us. This attack on unions has to stop. The ugly greed of the uncaring rich who want ot have it all while they gove less and less to those who work for them, shame.You'll never have enough will you?

  • Don
    June 08, 2013 - 18:55

    Greed, Greed, Greed. The greedy union and its greedy members are going to strike themselves out of a job. when LeBatts shuts down the plant. And I don't blame LeBatts.

  • Blair
    June 08, 2013 - 18:22

    Before the union asks the public to boycott Labatt's, would it be asking too much if they showed what the boycott is about. Could we see the wages and benefits being received by the workers before the strike and also could we have a look at what is being offered. If the wages are low then a boycott maybe justified, if the problem is that the company is making millions, that is really no concern of the union. WalMart, Banks, Sears, etc, make millions, however, employess unfortunately are not much higher paid than mimium wage. Sure, I'll boycott if it is justified, but show me.

  • Perry
    June 08, 2013 - 16:43

    I agree with the Labatts spokesman a boycott would harm a lot more people than just the employees . But then when did a union gave a dam about anybody but themselves ? No let the strikers stay out forever in fact I might drink more Labatts products

  • ro
    June 08, 2013 - 15:05

    Unions are asking the general public to support them by not buying beer produced by this company, to support their bid for higher wages. Be careful, with higher wages will come higher price for beer which will be passed on to those earning low wages or on fixed income Unions don't care about anyone else but themselves. Whenever they go on strike its "support us strike it buycott his or that , who gains and who loses when the strikes are settled not the general public or low wage earners or those on fixed wages. The higher the wages the poorer the poor will become. Just look around who's gaining and who's loosing.

  • david
    June 08, 2013 - 10:57

    Good one, overpaid delusional eejots. Here's my response to your plea : I hope it's a very cold, wet summer for your picket line in St. John's ---- and hot and sunny everywhere else on the island. You know...just average.

  • Greg
    June 08, 2013 - 10:54

    Lana Payne, the biggest socialist in Newfoundland, trying to screw up the free-market again... Labatt's employees have some of the better jobs available in the province... give an inch, and NAPE wants a light-year...