Union asks employees to strike on May 16, but won’t if the employer waives the strike deadline

Employees at an alcohol distribution warehouse in Quebec want a new union contract that includes additional pay for working on May 15 and May 16, but the group representing the workers told The Washington Post on Saturday night that it is waiving the May 16 strike deadline that employees at the warehouse set earlier this week in exchange for concessions by their employer.

The Liquor Control Board of Quebec had asked its workers to accept a collective agreement as of Friday, which effectively guaranteed that the contract wouldn’t go to a vote. According to a memo the LCBO sent out to staff, workers at its Ottawa-area warehouse in Saint-Jerome had agreed to work all five days of May 16, whether or not a union vote was held.

On Tuesday, the LCBO asked its employees to hold an electronic vote on whether or not to strike on May 16. It included a clause that would delay if the employees voted “no” to either the pickup and distribution of shipments that day or on May 17, and the extension of the strike deadline that workers at the warehouse had requested. If the employees voted “yes” to both of those items, their strike would be suspended for 24 hours. The employees could still vote against the strike, but the 25-day strike deadline would apply only to pick-up and distribution, and not to delivery to store shelves.

Hélène Fardeau, a representative of the workers at the St-Jerome warehouse, told The Post on Saturday night that the union has agreed to waive the May 16 strike deadline as a compromise for the LCBO. She said that a new negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22.

“We’ve signed an agreement with them. The union members are not striking on May 16 and 17,” Fardeau said, noting that union members will have a meeting with the LCBO management next week to sign the new agreement.

Fardeau also said that pick-up and delivery will occur on May 16, and that a letter from the union to the LCBO explaining the negotiations will be sent to every warehouse employee who works the day of the original pick-up and delivery contract, plus May 18. She said the union hopes to make its employees aware of the terms of the agreement before the next meeting between the union and management on Wednesday.

The LCBO employees had asked for increased pay on the day of pickups and deliveries on May 16, in order to better cater to the demands of its employees. The LCBO workers had also requested a pay hike to cover the pay differential between retail employees and warehouse workers.

The pick-up and delivery shift on May 16 is a critical day for the LCBO, as it is the only day in which regular deliveries are ordered by retailers for which the LCBO carries products. If the strike takes place on May 16, the company would be forced to shift it’s order to the following day, and would end up having to ship bottles to stores on what would normally be its regular delivery day. By waiving the strike, the LCBO would be allowing these provisions to be altered and continue as they had planned.

Fardeau told The Post that she had never seen the LCBO even think about trying to shift delivery from one day to another.

“All employees at the warehouse are seasonal employees, so they can’t do their regular job plus another job,” she said. “It’s difficult to do it.”

Marc Lafleur, a spokesman for the LCBO, said in an email that the company was “confident our employees will come to an agreement” on May 16, but he declined to comment on the specifics of the agreement.

This story was updated with information from Les gazette Canadienne.

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