Striking workers in Canada won’t stop until Molson Coors drops demands

Molson Coors has reportedly made "deep cuts" to Canadian workers' benefits causing a 5-week strike. ©iStock/Ivan_Sabo

Molson Coors plant workers in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, have been on strike since January 12, 2017, after a list of concessionary demands were made by the brewer that negatively impacted employee benefits, pensions, and hours.

The concessionary demands made by Molson Coors would make “deep cuts” to retirement security and health and welfare benefits and the company “left no room for negotiations,” president of Canadian Union of Brewery and General Workers Local 325 (CUBGW), Robert Folk, said in a statement.

Picketing is a last resort

With the help and guidance of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), 320 plant workers have formed a picket line and started a boycott against Molson Coors’ US-produced beers.

As a result of the strike, beer production at the Toronto plant is mostly shut down with Molson Coors being unable to access its products.

“The list of demands just about attacks every part of the collective agreement,” president of OPSEU Warren “Smokey” Thomas, told BeverageDaily.

According to Thomas, OPSEU bargains 754 contracts a year and is able to settle about 99% of those contracts. “The ones that go out on a strike start out with the employer attacking every part of the collective agreement there is,” he said.

OPSEU has helped the 325 striking members of CUBGW working at the Molson Coors plant with “picketing strategy and communications.”

“At the end of the day I think they want to break the union, that’s what I really think.”

Molson Coors recently hired a new plant manager and head of resources who live in the US and are not connected to the local community of Toronto, Thomas added.

“They’ve got no interest in the local economy, the local workforces.”

Changes in Molson Coors’ Canadian market

It is unclear what cuts were made by the company, but Molson Coors has allegedly faced weak performance of its beer portfolio in Canada and increased competition from competitor AB InBev.

Canada is Molson Coors’ second largest market and since 2013 its market share has declined from 40.2% to 26.9%, according to Statista.

In its recent Q4 earnings report, sales volumes in Canada fell nearly 3% and pre-tax income declined 12.2% to $267.3m for the year ending December 31, 2016.

Since the workers’ strike began in mid-February this year, the brewer has filed for an injunction to halt the picketing, but failed in court after the Ontario Superior Court dismissed Molson Coors’ claim seeking $6m in damages against the striking workers of CUBGW.

Negotiations to resume

On February 14, CUBGW and Molson Coors agreed to resume negotiations on February 17, 2017.

“While this is a positive step, after five weeks of our labor stoppage, we understand that reaching a settlement that meets the needs of our members and their families will be challenging,” the Canadian Union said in a statement.

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Comments (1)

Bud Daily - 16 Feb 2017 | 06:31

Molson Coors

If Molson Coors doesn't capitulate & bargain with their valued employees in good faith,a potential American boycott of all of Coors & Miller beers (including crafts) is sure to tip over their already teetering apple cart. Losing the goodwill of millions of their shrinking number of loyal customers is certainly not a blueprint for recouping market share & could encourage large numbers to permanently abandon their brews. Those who toil in the brewery aren't the ones responsible for the precipitous drop in sales & profits. It's those at the helm who should be forced to bear the brunt of any cuts to salaries & benefits,due to their own glaring lack of foresight & obvious mismanagement. After the ABInBev - SAB Miller merger (with Molson Coors now in charge of Miller Coors in the USA),there is little to gain & much to lose by resorting to such strong-arm tactics at the bargaining table. It's time to treat the people who actually produce their fine beers with the dignity & respect they not only deserve,but have also earned over many years working at the brewery.

16-Feb-2017 at 18:31 GMT

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