Seniority rights are at the heart of the labour dispute between the Teamsters and Sleeman-Unibroue. Repeated violations of the collective agreement and overtime issues are also stumbling blocks. In addition, a hostile work environment has resulted in more than 200 complaints being filed in recent months for a large number of violations of the collective agreement. Surprisingly, the hard-working relationships have led to problems at the negotiating table. In addition, the company decided to install surveillance cameras throughout the brewery, which violated the privacy of the workers. « We will continue to be open and cooperative in finding a quick solution to the renewal of the collective agreement, » the spokesman said. « Unyielding and inflexible frameworks have caused this labour dispute, » Boutin said. « Instead of working with the workers and seriously trying to solve the brewery`s problems, the company decided to go to war with its employees, which I can only call a ticket strategy. » Brewers, soft drink producers and retailers are all bound by the Recyc-Québec agreement, which supports the pawnbroker system that has existed in Quebec since 1984. This agreement stems from the law on the sale and distribution of beers and soft drinks in non-playable containers. For some workers, who often have to work overtime in the short term, it is impossible to achieve a work-life balance in the brewery.
Business leaders say mandatory overtime is preferable to hiring new workers to fill positions that remain vacant due to retirements and job cuts. Until 2016, brewers paid penalties for selling more than 37% of their canned beer. But is that still the case? In addition, the non-renewal of the agreement has resulted in a regulatory loophole that may encourage brewers to produce only beer cans. Production workers at the Sleeman-Unibroue plant in Chambly, Quebec, set up pickets last week following the failure of negotiations to renew the collective agreement. The Teamsters union, which represents the workers, said a final offer from Sleeman was rejected by 93% of its members. The Teamsters have been waiting for months to meet with provincial Environment Minister Isabelle Melanon to discuss the future of the Recyc-Québec agreement.