Brewery Workers in north-west Toronto Resist Concessions to Rich Conglomerate Molson Coors

The following interview was conducted on March 22, 2021 by Barry Weisleder for the Workers’ Action Movement.

Julio Montero, you are the Corresponding Secretary/ Business Agent of Local 325 of the Canadian Union of Brewery and General Workers.  What is your job at Molson Coors and how long have you worked there?

I have worked in various areas of packaging at Molson Coors for approximately 19 years. 

What are the key issues in dispute between workers and management at the plant?

Wages

The 2-tier graduated wage structure was introduced in 2010, with the understanding that new hires would reach the full wage scale in 10 years or have a progressive wage scale which would help members reach full wage. While some members still have not reached the top wage after 11 years, the company is insisting that workers remain on this tier of wages. This would create massive wage disparity between members hired prior to 2010 and members hired afterwards.

Schedule

A Continental Shift is extremely detrimental to the work-life balance of workers. It completely disregards family obligations, such as caring for young children, or providing care for elderly parents or relatives. It can also increase costs for many due to having to arrange for others to provide this care.

The union has in the past and in these negotiations delivered to the company’s bargaining team more than one cost effective schedule solution.

Pension

Currently, members on the Defined Benefit (DB) Pension Plan are contributing to their pension plan without any increase in pension benefits. The Union has agreed to wind down the (DB) Pension Plan and offered a cost-neutral pension plan that would be a “win-win” for the members and the corporation. Molson Coors denied this proposal. 

If the DB Pension Plan is phased out, will that weaken workers’ pensions and make them subject to investment in the stock market? 

If the DB plan is phased out and we are put into a DC (Defined Contribution) plan, then it would be based on the market and it would not be guaranteed.

Why did the bosses lock out the brewery workers rather than continue the negotiations?

We will never know the reason or thinking behind locking the workers out in a pandemic.  We can assume that because they forced a “best and final offer” vote (February 18 and 19, 2021) to members, which was turned down by 75 per cent, we were locked out February 20, 2021. 

What can supporters of Local 325 do to support you?  (e.g. Do you want people to buy cases of beer to deplete the company’s supply, or boycott Molson beers?)

To help support CUBGW Local 325, we ask that everyone purchase Miller Genuine Draft (MGD), Coors Original, Molson Canadian and Coors Light preferably in bottles.  We ask that everyone follow us on twitter (@CUBGW) and Facebook (Canadian Union of Brewery and General Workers) and help us end the Molson Coors lock out of essential workers in a pandemic.

Anyone who would like to come to the picket line is welcome, but we ask that you wear a mask and maintain six feet social distancing to comply with COVID-19 protocols. Currently, we are not boycotting Molson products but rather request the public to drink our quality products made by our union members.  Let’s Drink’em Dry.

What support have you received so far from NUPGE, other unions, labour councils and organizations like the Workers’ Action Movement?

We have received tremendous amount of support from the Nation Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).  With over 390,000 members from all across Canada, support has been overflowing.

The Toronto and York Region labour council is helping to reach other locals for support.

Workers’ Action Movement (WAM), your support has been inspiring to our members.  It shows solidarity.  We are encouraged that there are people that care and fight to defend the working class and to defend anti – concessions struggles.  Coming to the picket lines on cold days shows your support for CUBGW.

Labour Fightback has also been a great help, coming out to the picket lines in big numbers.

There are several other unions that have pledged their support and solidarity.  OPSEU, UFCW, SEIU, ETFO, OSSTF, IATSE……and many more.

Our members follow strict protocols for product and food safety but unfortunately a few bargaining team members had contracted COVID-19 after returning to work, and for the most part, continued to work through sickness remotely on negotiations to try and reach an agreement.