Talks break off between Labatt, union

Daniel MacEachern
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Striking Labatt Brewery workers walk the picket line Thursday afternoon outside the brewery on Leslie Street in St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Negotiations between Labatt and the union representing striking brewery workers broke off after only half an hour Thursday, with the two sides no closer to reaching an agreement.

“We presented what we would term our best offer, and (the) indication from the union was that it wasn’t acceptable for them,” Labatt spokesman Wade Keller said Thursday afternoon.

The company publicly released its offer at Thursday, the first time since the strike began in late March that the terms of the company’s offer have been released.

“We’re very concerned that there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so we have actually sent a letter to all of our employees, unionized and non-unionized, outlining the facts around the offer.”

Keller said Labatt employees made, on average, $81,000 last year, including overtime, and the seven-year package offered by the company includes wage increases of several thousand dollars. Keller said the contentious points include the company’s request that employees begin contributing to their pension plan starting in 2016, Year 3 of the deal.

“And in Year 4 of the deal, we are asking that we have a co-pay system when it comes to benefits, so it would be 80 per cent paid by the company, and 20 per cent paid by the employees,” he said.

The union sees that as a concession, said Keller, as it does the company’s proposal to tie some wage increases to performance. For operators and kettlemen, set wage increases are one per cent in years 1, 4 and 7, while achievement-based compensation ranges from $1,055.78 in the first year to $3,231 in the seventh year. Mechanics, electricians and engineers have been offered a three per cent increase in the first year of the deal, and one per cent raises in years 4 and 7, with bonuses starting at a potential $1,118.09 and running to $3,635.91.

“It’s a bonus system that is in place for all of our salaried employees, and in fact all of these principles are in place in one form or another in other breweries in Canada, so we’re trying to maintain consistency throughout,” said Keller.

The other contentious point, said Keller, is a new wage tier for new hires, with a starting rate of $22 an hour, working out to about $46,000 a year.

“That would be for jobs that don’t require specific skills. So the tradespeople, that wouldn’t apply to anybody coming in working as an electrician, mechanic, but someone working on a machine that turns out cardboard boxes or cuts the bottoms of boxes on bottle returns. It wouldn’t affect anyone currently working at the brewery, but it would come into effect for any new hires.”

Keller said the company doesn’t know where negotiations stand now, although today’s planned talks have been cancelled.

“It’s hard to say if it’s a walking-away. We don’t know exactly where we stand. We’ve given the union our offer, and they’ve indicated that they’re not going to accept that offer, so we’re unclear where things go now.”

A union spokesman said the union considers negotiations to still be ongoing and would not comment Thursday.

The spokesman said the union would update its members Thursday night on the

status of talks with Labatt.

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Labatt

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Jake
    July 20, 2013 - 12:07

    81k with little education? Won't accept a plan everyone else already has? Get off your high horse and realize that's the way it is. You've already lost in pay what more then 99 percent of you would ever pay in for benefits. If I was Labatt I would give you a week then start to reverse my offer for hurting business. I also read productivity increased at brewery since you left? Ouch.

    • Townie
      July 21, 2013 - 11:34

      Sounds like an ass kissing manager or scab to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ger
    July 19, 2013 - 15:23

    This SEEMS like a good contract. In these times, contracts are a give and take. You guys have a lot of good things here compared to the rest of us.I did support you by not purchasing Labatt products but, this is a good offer.

  • Townie
    July 19, 2013 - 10:50

    Don't believe everything you hear or see, Labatt Propraganda at its best!!!!!!! Wade Keller is a master at it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Doug
    July 19, 2013 - 08:58

    Keep going after workers making $80,000 while the employing class laughs it up. The real problem is the one percent making everyone poorer so they can line their own pockets. What do you think has been happening since the 2008 crash?

    • Townie
      July 19, 2013 - 10:57

      Only for unions you would still be making minimum wage, you can take that to the bank!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • suzanne
    July 19, 2013 - 07:07

    I say leave them out there until it gets cold. I'm sick of unions with there sense of entitlement. 81,000.00 a year with a great pension plan and benfit package with little to no education?? My sympathy is zero for this group. I'm going to head out tonight and grab myself a cold Bud Light.

  • Howard Epstein
    July 19, 2013 - 07:04

    How is it that companies make "offers," (even when they are consessions) and unions make "demands?" Also, how is it that companies have "managers," while unions have "bosses?" If these workers are making $81,000, good for them! Rather than demanding that they join the race to the bottom, perhaps we should be asking why the companies are making increasing profits at the expense of ALL workers.

    • Townie
      July 19, 2013 - 11:00

      Finally, an intelligent comment!!!!!!!!! Way to go Howard!!!!Don't be jealous of persons who make more money, join a union & get some yourself. Just make that call?????

  • roy
    July 19, 2013 - 06:54

    With a salary at over $80,000.00 , not having to pay into a pension plan or medical plan and they are looking for public support with beer being a poor mans champain. Must be out of their minds. Close it down and ship it in from Quebec. Greedy unions at their best and they want ante scab legislation. Thank god we don't have it and govt should never bring it in.

    • Townie
      July 19, 2013 - 11:03

      Roy: are you an owner of a business in NL, sure sounds like it!!! All the profit for yourself, greed greed & more greed. Share it with the people who do the work, EMPLOYEES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!