Union asks public to boycott Labatt

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By Daniel MacEachern — TC Media

From left, Frank O'Leary, president of Nape Local 7004; Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour; Carol Furlong, NAPE president and Chris Henley, NAPE negotiator held a news conference at the union’s office in St. John’s Friday.

ST. JOHN’S — The union representing about 50 striking Labatt workers in St. John’s is urging the public to boycott the brewery’s products.

Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), said late Friday morning that with billions of dollars in annual profit, Labatt Brewing Company and its parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev shouldn’t be seeking concessions from workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, who have been on strike for two and a half months.

“After years of loyal service, these workers are faced with massive concessions, not only during their working career, but into retirement as well,” said Furlong at a news conference at the union’s headquarters. “A small group of workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have been targeted by the goliath multinational company.”

Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, joined in the call for a boycott of the company’s products, including, Labatt Blue, Alexander Keith’s, Blue Star, Budweiser and Kokanee.

“We are respectfully this morning asking for the support of Newfoundlanders and Labradors. We ask that they join with us in solidarity in our boycott,” said Payne, who said the strike was about workers’ decision to resist what she called “the race to the bottom” in the company’s demands, including asking workers to train their replacements — “strikebreakers,” she called them — in the event of a walkout. Working people are being squeezed at a time when companies make record profits but supposedly find it difficult to find skilled labour, she added.

“This is not a case of needing concessions. This is a case of corporate greed,” she said.

Wade Keller, Labatt spokesman, said a boycott — happening as summer approaches, the most profitable time of year for beer producers — would, ultimately, hurt not just the company, but many others including the workers.

“The union should be very concerned. If people stop drinking our beer, they may not start again after the strike is over, and if that’s the case, we won’t need as many workers,” he said. “The union should also be concerned about other people that a boycott could affect, such as distributors, store workers, bar staff, people who work in festivals and people who benefit from those festivals. A boycott can affect a lot more people than just our company.”

Neither side would discuss specifics in the company’s offer or concessions demanded. Union negotiator Chris Henley said the union has been through several negotiating sessions with a conciliator present.

“Labatt has not changed its position,” he said. “The employer hasn’t changed its position since the onset. The major concessions they put on the table at the beginning of negotiations are still there. Their first offer has been their only offer.”

Keller said the company has collective agreements similar to its current offer at many of its other breweries.

“We believe workers at all of our plants in Canada should basically be treated the same,” he said. “It’s not clear to us why NAPE thinks that people at the St. John’s brewery should be treated differently. We’ve signed similar collective agreements in Creston (B.C.), Edmonton, Halifax, and so far NAPE hasn’t been willing to negotiate.”

The Telegram

Organizations: Labatt, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, Anheuser-Busch InBev Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour Blue Star Budweiser

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Edmonton

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Recent comments

  • Devil's Advocate
    June 10, 2013 - 17:16

    I already boycotted beer in Newfoundland, because of the blatant greed. The price is double what it is on the mainland.

    • david
      June 27, 2013 - 13:06

      Greed offends you when it comes to beer, does it? How does "$36 an hour, and striking for a raise" register on the ol' greed-o-meter?

  • Bill
    June 08, 2013 - 14:28

    What a pile of crap from the company spokesman! Typical corporate fearmongering and propaganda. How can he go before the media and make the claim that the union's boycott request will harm bartenders, festival staff, and store employees? The consumers were being asked not to purchase Labatt products....NOT give up drinking beer altogether. What a joke! Bartenders will still be working, regardless of what label is on the bottle. And as for his claim that a boycott will send consumers to the other brands forever....well if Labatt was so concerned over their market share, then this strike would have been settled long ago. Truth is, they know they have a stranglehold on the multimillion dollar Newfoundland beer market, so they couldn't give a Rat's A** about any boycott. Their ultimate goal is to break organized labour, and to have their product manufactured at sweat-shop wages. What they DON'T want the public to know, is that a 24 of premium beer retails in the US for $16, and the exact same brand (and % alcohol) sells for almost $50 here in Canada. Yes, some of it is taxes....but a tidy sum is obscene profit. Lower the wage portion....the profits balloon! So, Mr. Labatt spokesman....it's shameful that you try to deceive the public with your "sky is falling" mentality. The same thing happened in Corner Brook exactly one year ago - Kruger gave all the union locals the final ultimatum....either they immediately ratify the "take it, or leave it" Chinese-style contract, or the bankers would be putting the locks on the doors the following week. Well, one year later, 75% of the unions have signed on to terrible wage and benefit consessions, but a few locals have held out for better. But where are these "bankers" with their padlocks and chains? Nowhere to be seen!! It was all a bluff to break organized labour....and they accomplished it with the help of our dear government officials! Hang in there Labatt employees....the working man supports YOU!

  • mainlander
    June 08, 2013 - 06:46

    Mr. Keller....they don't get it. Tell Labatt's to pull the plug.

  • Diane
    June 08, 2013 - 06:24

    The only reason some of them are still there...Is because they are PROTECTED by the UNION...Not because they are hard worker...Or care about the company...and there Livelihood...Just give me ..That the bottom line

    • Townie
      June 27, 2013 - 08:47

      Diane are you still making mimimum wage???????