Over 2,500 retail and office workers at the Quebec Liquor Board (SAQ) held a general membership meeting on September 28, at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. They voted 96 per cent in favour of a new 18-day strike mandate to be used when the union deems necessary. They are demanding that those in control of the SAQ sign a collective agreement acceptable to those who do the work.
Workers previously voted for a six-day strike mandate and have so far used five of those days. The new strike mandate was approved following a negotiation blitz with SAQ executives which ended in failure.
The workers’ demands include an across-the-board wage increase necessary to reach a modern standard and an end to precarious working conditions. Close to 70 per cent of the 5,500 SAQ workers are stuck in part-time irregular work, sometimes with only a couple of hours of work per week. They are often only notified of their schedules at the last minute.
Workers are particularly angry at the company’s wage offer that does not even compensate for concessions the SAQ executives have already demanded, leaving workers in poverty and without the dignity they deserve. The arrogance of the corporation is such that instead of addressing the central issue of irregular work and poverty wages, they want to intensify the attack on workers’ stability and peace of mind with increased weekend shifts.
The present collective agreement expired on March 31, 2017, yet those in control of the company want only to delay and pressure workers into accepting even worse working conditions under the threat of privatization. The new 18-day strike mandate expresses the resistance of the workers and their determination to have an agreement that addresses their demands.
The workers are also clear that the threat of the Liberal government, which was defeated in the October 1 election, to hand over SAQ profits to private interests, will be taken up in earnest by the new party in power, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ). SAQ executives are now using the election results to power yet again the threat of privatization to force the workers to capitulate.
The 18-day strike mandate is a just rebuttal of this intimidation. It expresses the workers’ determination to improve their working conditions on the basis of an acceptable collective agreement.
(From Workers’ Forum. Photo: CSN)