On the Picket Line

After one-day strike, pharmacy workers locked out in Quebec

By Joe Young
October 26, 2020

VARENNES, Quebec — After a one-day strike here Sept. 23, some 700 workers, members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) at the warehouse for the Jean Coutu pharmacy chain in Quebec, found themselves locked out the next day.

The union is demanding the employees be trained in all the jobs so that there can be just one job classification, with all warehouse workers entitled to the same pay and benefits. Audrey Benoit, president of the union, told the Militant the employers are “dragging things out.”

Jean Coutu was bought out by Metro, a major food chain in Canada, in 2018 and integrated with another chain of pharmacies, where truckers work for a nonunion subcontractor. The unionists want every worker to be in the union.

This is the third company lockout since 1992. Benoit said the lockout is having an impact on delivery of medications to pharmacies. The workers have received solidarity from other CSN unions and the United Steelworkers. The workers are reaching out for support by picketing Jean Coutu pharmacies.