A new year, an old strike

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Labatt workers off job since spring 2013

Three Labatt employees who were eligible for retirement in the past year are left in limbo as the strike nears the 10-month mark.

Striking Labatt Brewery workers had a bitterly cold day on the picket line Thursday when temperatures reached -30 C with the windchill. The strike has been ongoing for almost 10 months.

One of them was Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) Local 7004 president Frank O’Leary, who said he could have taken early retirement in 2013.

“It’s up in the air, that’s it,” said O’Leary, who has worked at the Leslie Street brewery for 32 years and may lean towards leaving over sour relations after the strike is concluded and there’s a contract.

“It’s hard on everybody.”

No formal talks have been held since July.

The beer strike of 1985, which affected  both breweries, lasted

7 1/2 months.

The union wants a conciliation board appointed, but Labatt does not. A conciliator has been involved in the process.


Not bound

Labatt Breweries of Canada director of corporate affairs Wade Keller said it’s in both sides’ interest to try to resolve it between themselves, and a board decision would not be binding.

He said the company hasn’t seen any loss in sales because of the boycott called for by the union, but it doesn’t like the situation, either. The company has made overtures and hopes there will be progress in the new year, he added.

“Right now, it’s status quo,” Keller said.

The monetary offer will put the Labatt brewery workers in St. John’s in line with others in the company’s network across the country, he said.

As the strike heads toward the one-year mark, O’Leary said the presence of replacement workers and the length of the strike without government action could  spell the “death of unions.”

“We are very disappointed in the company. Since Day 1, the first week of proposals, there has been no movement at all,” O’Leary said.

About 50 workers are on strike at the plant.

Besides monetary issues, Keller said shift scheduling is another principal at odds between the two sides.

“I didn’t see it  hitting nine months. Who knows, sometimes it can come together really quickly.”

The company has continued to brew beer with the replacement workers.

“The company would like to have the unionized workers back to work,” Keller said.

The workers voted for the strike in April, but the company claims the employees walked out in late March.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said the NAPE request for a conciliation board is under review, while a senior conciliation officer continues to try to help the two sides resolve the dispute.

The spokesman said the primary responsibility for negotiating a collective agreement remains with the two sides.

In November, NAPE called on the provincial government to introduce legislation to prevent the use of replacement workers and strikebreakers during a legal strike.

The union blamed lack of such legislation for the prolonged brewery strike.



Organizations: Labatt, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, Department of Justice

Geographic location: Leslie Street, Canada

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Recent comments

  • david
    January 03, 2014 - 10:43

    Just curious: Do you people carry around old lottery tickets in your wallets, thinking that the winning numbers will be overturned and you'll be declared the winner? You made a very, very stupid bet, and you lost. In a most spectacular, expensive, clueless way. Are you going to spend the rest of your life digging the hole deeper? I'm sure Labatt's will come to its knees worrying about Newfoundland beer sales....it's critical. $80,000 is an insult.

    • Labatt Temp
      January 03, 2014 - 11:56

      David, get your facts straight, I make $13 hour no benefits, add it up. Don't believe everything you hear from Labatt. They are good at fooling the people of NL & Lab because of ignorance of some

    • ?????????????
      January 03, 2014 - 11:58

      Sounds like a manager from Labatt, kissin more butt

    • Brad
      January 03, 2014 - 12:28

      David: You mad, bro?

    • Newfoundlander
      January 03, 2014 - 12:34

      To David: you probaly need some professional help. Why are you so against someone fighting to improve there life, unless you are someone from Labatt management? Why do you rant on & on? Get yourself some friends so you don't have to be on your computer all day.

    • realist
      January 03, 2014 - 16:13

      For everyone having a go at David, consider the situation with an unbiased view.The success of a labor stoppage is contingent on the business activities of the buying public. Labatt contends it pays a fair wage, the workers say nay. People who buy Labatt products implicitly say"we don't care" Life goes on. The workers would be wise to come back to the table and take the offer the company has made because the reality if the situation is they are the ones suffering and quite frankly, no one cares enough.

  • Kelly
    January 03, 2014 - 10:11

    My my. So much bitterness towards our fellow workers. So who's going to support you when your bosses takes advantage of you? Will you even have the spines to stand up for yourselves or just lie down and take it? Just a bunch of spiteful cowards.

    • Chantal
      January 03, 2014 - 10:30

      I've found that many Newfoundlanders bristle at the very thought of others getting ahead and would rather spend more energy pulling them back then advancing themselves. If I were an abusive employer, I would be delighted with this attitude that 1. Leaves me free and clear from all criticism and 2. Allows me to continue to take advantage of my employees.

    • david
      January 03, 2014 - 10:32

      Stubborn, and stupid to the bitter end.

    • david
      January 03, 2014 - 12:06

      Bank robbery is another way of "getting ahead" .... but that takes an individual with at least some guts and accountability, as opposed to just blending into a mob of extortionists. Guess what? You all got so "far ahead" that the race is being called off.......hooray! .... now it's off to the 'winners' banquet where they're making victory speeches and serving roast golden goose.

    • Chantal
      January 03, 2014 - 13:14

      What are you even talking about?

  • Molson Beer on the rise
    January 03, 2014 - 09:25

    Molsons market share has gone up 5% since the strike, so Labatt sales have dropped. How many Christmas parties were Labatt free, so many? Keller must think we ere brainless.

  • Observer
    January 03, 2014 - 09:19

    Ridiculous!! There was a time not so long ago when unions RULED this province. Not anymore, thank goodness. Time to suck it up, realize you're losers , take what you're offered and get back to work. Oh, and I bet the union LEADERS haven't been getting by on strike pay while the members have been carrying the burden for them.

  • Jason
    January 03, 2014 - 08:55

    Boys for God sake tell NAPE to take a flying leap and go get a deal. NAPE hasn't accomplished anything in years and they are leading us to a deep dark hole.

  • rod
    January 03, 2014 - 08:51

    You strikers made your bed now you have to lie in it.

    • Molson Drinker
      January 03, 2014 - 11:49

      next to your girlfriend???? Loser!!!!