SAQ warehouse workers are threatening to strike

Stickers cover the entrance to an SAQ outlet as liquor store employees go on strike to press lagging contract negotiations, Tuesday, July 17, 2018 in St. Marthe-sur-le-Lac Que.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

A potential strike is looming with some 800 union members working in Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) warehouses and stores threatening to walk out.  

These workers, members of a local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), affiliated with the QFL, have just voted 94 per cent in favour of pressure tactics that could go as far as a strike.

In an interview on Tuesday, Michel Gratton, CUPE's union advisor assigned to the file, wished it wouldn't come to that. He noted that negotiations are going well, with three days a week. The parties are still negotiating this week.

"It's slow, but it's going well. So, we don't intend to go on strike right away, or use any pressure tactics, as we speak," said Gratton.

By adopting this strike mandate, the workers wanted to demonstrate the seriousness of their desire to obtain a wage catch-up, he explained.

Some job titles pay $17 an hour at the entry level, he lamented.

In addition to pay, the precarious status of many part-time employees, as well as group insurance, are in dispute.

The Société des alcools is considering a home delivery project and he would like his members to perform these tasks, Gratton said. So he wants to negotiate the terms.

"It could be Canada Post or Purolator. But I have a problem with the fact that it's alcohol that's being delivered. I have a problem with bottles of alcohol being left at the door because the customer isn't there... or identifying the customer to make sure they're 18... It's pretty much only our employees who can do that service," said Gratton.

The collective agreement expired on March 31.

MANAGEMENT IS OPEN

Management of the Liquor Corporation indicated that "negotiations have been underway since September 22" and that "the climate at the table is good, discussions are constructive and progressing normally."

The management reports that "operations are continuing normally".

"Our will is the same since the beginning of the negotiations: to reach a satisfactory agreement for both parties as soon as possible," said the management of the SAQ.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Oct. 19, 2021.

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