Labatt builds fence to protect replacement workers

Andrew Robinson
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Company rep accuses union members of intimidating employees at St. John’s plant

Labatt Brewery on Leslie Street in downtown St. John’s has erected a fence it says is designed to protect replacement workers from striking employees. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Labatt Breweries in St. John’s has erected a fence in a move to protect replacements workers from those whose jobs they have taken over.

Wade Keller, the company’s director of corporate affairs in Atlantic Canada, confirmed to The Telegram that the fence was put in place in response to the actions of striking workers represented by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).

“The union’s tactics the other day, we view that as a form of intimidation, when you put someone’s street address there,” said Keller.

He was referring to a display set up in front of a neighbouring house during a demonstration last Friday that listed the names of replacement workers.

“I think people have a certain expectation of privacy ... and there is a safety aspect to be considered.”

The potential use of replacement workers was the issue that started a wildcat strike on May 25.

Members with NAPE Local 7004 voted in favour of strike on April 10.

“In these situations, they do get emotional, and when you start sharing people’s home addresses, that has the potential to escalate into something more dangerous. The fence is there out of concern for the safety of our employees.”

A spokesman for NAPE said any questions relating to the fence would need to be answered by the company. However, one source from the picket line suggested the fence would trap people trying to use the fire escape in the event of an emergency.

The source also questioned whether firefighters would be able to access the hook-up on the property given the placement of the fence.

Keller said the fence is at least three metres from the fire escape, adding that there is an opening where people could quickly get through the fence in the event of an emergency.

Held down with sandbags, the fence is considered a temporary measure, though Keller said it could become a permanent fixture if necessary.

“Union members have a right to strike, but they do not have a right to strike on our property,” he said.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

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

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • Diana O'Brien
    June 16, 2013 - 09:27

    Rick , sorry you are WRONG. They do have support !!!!! I do not work for Labbatt's nor am I part of NAPE. But I would walk side by side on their picket line. Because they are willing to take a stand to protect their wages and benefits . Don't try to bring people down in their wages instead bring others up

  • Paul Hanlon
    June 01, 2013 - 13:30

    Labbatt"s employee's having fought for what is rightfully their's in the last 8 year contract and should not have to any of the benefits taken from them. The St. John's Brewery has the best contract in the country. With the raising cost of inflation who can afford to lose pay and benefits???? As the long strike drags on, it's time for NAPE and Labbatt's to get together to resolve the issues to end this strike. Striker's stand tall and be proud. Solidarity Forever.

    • Bruce Baker
      June 16, 2013 - 09:45

      They are not replacement workers they are SCABS!!!

  • Rick Hanrahan
    June 01, 2013 - 12:19

    Pretty soon you guys will realize that you are the only ones commenting on these stories... It's obvious you guys work for Labatt, and if you haven't noticed, you have zero public support. Nobody cares. You're easily replaceable, you're overpaid and greedy. More than triple minimum wage for what you do????

  • Liz
    May 31, 2013 - 12:39

    Intimidation by the strikers? Intimidation is watching the locks being changed on the door of the plant, a notice saying the scabs were coming in, the stockpiling of beer, the fence in question delivered ALL BEFORE the workers walked. That's intimidation. Any tactic they can use to make it bad for the striker they will use. Says a lot about the character of this company. I will never again purchase another Labatt product. This is not about wages people. And Tim, why don't you just move to Florida permanently as you obviously don't realize that the province are the ones who set the price of beer.

    • Tim Jamison
      June 01, 2013 - 10:23

      The price the province sets is determined by the wholesale cost it pays for the product, which is jacked up severely because of the union members. But I do agree that we should also cut the province out of the picture by privatizing all liquor sales, but I suppose you'll fight that too, for the "poor, underpaid" union members. I'll not be moving anywhere. I'll always be right here, attacking unions and other leftist things you cherish. This is my place and I'm trying to fix it. I'm not going to ask you to move away because such xenophobic tactics are laughable and belong on the playground.

  • Joe it All
    May 31, 2013 - 10:43

    Mr. Keller don't consider hiring scabs as intimidation? Does the fence hide the address of the scabs? The fence serves no purpose but to piss off the strikers. Great for employee relations once this strike is over. Maybe NAPE should post the names and address on line. I would like to know if a neighbour or friend is a low life scab!!

  • Tim Jamison
    May 31, 2013 - 10:31

    Close the plant and move it to a new, non-union facility, out of the city or out of the province, if need be. I don't like paying $46 for a 24. I like paying $18 dollars for a 24, like I do in Florida. I really don't care about these union members enough to continue paying these exorbitant prices. This is madness and it's hitting all of us where it matters, in the wallet. Not only do I pay these exorbitant prices, but I do it with a non-union member wage, like the other 90% of us. Close the plant

    • Happily Retired
      May 31, 2013 - 13:23

      The price of beer has more to do with taxes than salaries of workers. The price won't go down when(if) it gets shipped in.

    • Tim Jamison
      June 01, 2013 - 10:14

      I will grant you that about a fifth of the overpricing is because of unions and the rest is from taxes, but we have to chop up this elephant one piece at a time and approximately 20% of it is made of union members. We could chop off even more by privatizing all of our liquor stores, which will be difficult because there will be even more union members in the way of that. The taxes are another matter and it you want those kept low, vote Harper

  • Bea P
    May 31, 2013 - 09:32

    Who's intimidating who? I'd like to see some real reporting instead of the usual 'company says'....if you did any research, you'd know that Labatt had this fence ordered and ready to go before their workers walked out! Labatt is owned by InBev - the world's largest brewer and the St. John's brewery on Leslie Street made $18 million profit for InBev last year. The Brazilians who own InBev are simply greedy! I took the time to speak with the striking workers and have been told this strike is not about wages - its about holding onto pensions and benefits that they've already worked for - many for more than 25 years! It's about respecting workers - something many foreign-owned global companies have no idea about as workers in their countries have very little rights!

  • Jay
    May 31, 2013 - 09:32

    I've worked in places with unions, and I've worked in places without unions. You don't realize how important unions are until you work in a place which doesn't have one.

  • Ben
    May 31, 2013 - 09:15

    Shut the brewery down and build condos, Molson beer tastes way better !!!

  • Chantal
    May 31, 2013 - 08:44

    Aftrer forcing these workers to train the scabs, this is just one more provocative move by Labatt. If this company can get away with treating its workers like this, why not all companies?

  • Johnny on the spot
    May 31, 2013 - 08:29

    Most likely. Members pay dues from which a strike fund is built and used to pay workers when they go on strike.

  • Over
    May 31, 2013 - 07:50

    When this is over, I'll bet Keller will be transferred. Are the scab workers locals?? If yes, that takes nerve. Whether or not we agree with the union, where would we be without them? Unions gave us what we have today, including benefits that management enjoys.

  • Don
    May 31, 2013 - 07:09

    Good for LeBatt's Goon tactic's should never be condoned. The next step will be to close the plant and manufacture the product in Nova Scotia,

    • Townie
      June 01, 2013 - 12:52

      DON $18 million in profit,would you through that away????????????????? leave the proince we will fight the battle for you!!!!!!!

  • Jack London
    May 31, 2013 - 06:59

    There is nothing lower than a scab.

    • Ben
      May 31, 2013 - 12:35

      Except for the people like you that they walk over !!!

    • Townie
      June 01, 2013 - 12:54

      Other than the plant manager that brings them in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris H
    May 31, 2013 - 06:45

    Wade Keller's last comment most accurately described the reason for putting up the fence. That corner of the building offers some protection from the elements. No doubt the sole intention is to make the picketers more uncomfortable. This fence does, however, block access to a fire hose hookup that is located on the corner of the building. While the fence may be temporary, in an emergency, seconds matter.

  • Fred Penner
    May 31, 2013 - 06:37

    Does NAPE or some other "strike agency" pay these strikers salaries just like those at the airport?

    • Townie
      June 03, 2013 - 05:02

      Are you kidding???? No salaries paid during a strike!!!!!