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‘Are you buying scab beer cans?’ Union warns Canadian consumers off Coors Light in Crown cans

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By Ben Bouckley+

18-Jun-2014
Last updated the 18-Jun-2014 at 15:03 GMT

A Coors Light billboard in downtown Toronto. As a Molson Coors brand it will potentially be affected by the USW action (Photo: Redlemon83/Flickr)
A Coors Light billboard in downtown Toronto. As a Molson Coors brand it will potentially be affected by the USW action (Photo: Redlemon83/Flickr)

A Toronto labor dispute that began nine months ago at Crown Holdings is escalating with strike leaders now urging the Canadian public not to drink beer brands in cans from brewers including Molson Coors and Labatt.

The appeal to LCBO and Beer Store customers is a transparent effort to hit Crown in the pocket, and by potentially upsetting its major Canadian customers, force Crown back to the negotiating table.

Employees at Crown’s Toronto site have been on strike since September 2013 in protest at what they say are Crown’s demands for concessions on pay, including a permanent low-wage scale for new workers.

The United Steelworkers (USW) trade union accuses Crown of recruiting strike breakers to operate the factory in Toronto, and are distributing leaflets to beer store customers.

‘This American company is using scabs to do our jobs’ – USW

“Are you buying scab cans?” before encouraging them to drink bottled beer over favorite Canadian canned brands including Molson Canadian, Carling Lager and Coors Light – these are three of the Top 10 in Beer Store.

“This American company is using scabs to do our jobs and drive down wages, especially for young workers,” the leaflet adds; USW asserts that Crown is currently running the site well below capacity.

Lawrence Hay, a USW representative, said the union wanted to raise public awareness of the strike and the issues involved. The union is picketing major Crown customers Molson, Labatt and Cott separately.

“Molson [Coors] and Labatt, two of the largest customers supplied by Crown, are majority owners of The Beer Store, and the LCBO carries a range of beer in Crown cans,” he said.

Since Crown hasn't been willing to negotiate with us, we need customers to know the best way they can help is to complain to the company and drink beer in bottles,” Hay added.

USW accuses Crown of ‘union busting’ tactics

USW claims that Crown has not negotiated meaningfully with it since March when employees opposed a revised proposal by 117 votes to one.

Hay said: "It seems clear that Crown doesn't want us back and is trying to bust the union.  

"Our people want to get back to work. We hope the public can help us push the company back to the negotiating table to make a fair deal,” he added.

‘We’re not going to comment’ – Crown Holdings

Thomas Fischer, Crown Holdings VP of investor relations and corporate affairs, told BeverageDaily.com that he hadn’t heard about the latest appeal from USW to consumers.

“I haven’t seen their release, and we’re not going to comment on this situation,” he said.

Talking about Crown’s Q1 2014 results on April 17, Crown Holdings CEO John Conway told analysts: “It’s an unfortunate situation. We have 150+ plants in the world and we have one factory that’s had some difficulties with the labor force.”

Toronto had been running at circa. 50% capacity, he added, but Crown was working to staff the plant fully by the end of June with capacity back to 100% by the first week in July.

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