On the Picket Line

Quebec Molson brewery workers strike for wages and respect

By Joe Young
and Félix Vincent Ardea
May 2, 2022

MONTREAL — Over 400 workers at the Molson-Coors brewery and distribution center here went on strike March 25. Key issues are the bosses’ inadequate wage offer, where workers would actually lose ground to inflation, and the company’s demand to impose mandatory overtime. Teamster union members voted 99% to reject the bosses’ latest offer and to strike.

Molson-Coors is a joint Canadian-American brewing company built out of the 2005 merger of Molson and Coors and the acquisition of SABMiller in 2016. This is the first strike at Molson in 40 years.

“There was no desire on the part of the company to negotiate,” Jean Marie Savin, a packer, told the Militant April 13 on the picket line at the east end distribution center. “It was take it or leave it.”

The company’s offer of 2.25% a year over a five-year contract is nowhere near the official rate of inflation of 5.7%. The union had previously accepted concessions, like taking a bonus of 1,000 Canadian dollars ($793) instead of a wage increase, Savin said, but workers are now drawing the line.

The proposed contract would mean that “in packing and shipping you would not have the option of bumping someone with less seniority if there are layoffs,” Savin explained. “This is an attack on seniority.” He said it takes 1,850 hours work in one year to become a permanent employee, and with company layoffs it’s almost impossible to make it.

The company wants electricians and mechanics to be on call during the weekend, disrupting family life, mechanic David Veilleux said. “You have to be there in an hour. This makes it impossible to plan ahead to go out on your free time. And that’s on top of the regular workweek. They can’t keep workers, so they put all the extra work on our shoulders.”

The owners tried to use strikebreakers to keep operations going, which is illegal in Quebec. After a union complaint, the company was ordered to stop.