On the Picket Line

Brewery workers fight lockout over Molson concession demands

By Tony DiFelice
March 22, 2021

TORONTO — Molson Coors Beverage Co. Feb. 20 locked out the 300 workers at its brewery here after they rejected the company’s “best and final” offer by a vote of 208 to 69. The unionists, members of Canadian Union of Brewery and General Workers Local 325, had been working without a contract since Dec. 31. The Toronto brewery is one of Molson’s biggest in Canada, churning out about 880 million bottles of beer a year.

Local 325 President Gaurav Sharma told the Toronto Star  that the union is fighting to end the two-tier wage structure, in effect since 2010, which caps new-hire wages at 84% of those hired earlier. “We were trying to bring everyone into the same wage scale,” he said.

The bosses also want changes to the pension system and new 12-hour weekend shifts with no overtime pay. They hoped to sell the concessions with raises each year of the contract and a 1,000 Canadian dollar ($795) ratification bonus.

Pickets at one gate this Militant correspondent talked to were all opposed to the new shift. Marko Rodman, a 20-year veteran at the plant, said he’s divorced and has his kids every second week. He doesn’t see how he’d be able to handle such shifts. The proposed changes to the pension system also mean he would have to work 10 years longer to qualify.

Three weeks before the lockout the company posted help-wanted ads for temporary workers. A company spokesperson claimed it was a routine posting for summer help, not related to contract negotiations. Workers say they’ll see what happens.