But the concern remains: the shelves are poorly stocked and even bare to some Quebec Alcohol Corporation (SAQ) points of sale. The workers approved an indefinite general strike on November 22, but returned later that week when the union reached a tentative agreement with the SAQ.
The repercussions of this walkout, even if it only lasted a few days, were felt in retail outlets across Quebec. The shelves usually full of wine and liquor quickly thinned.
As of Monday night, however, 86 percent of those roughly 800 warehouse and delivery workers rejected the proposed deal.
Negotiations to continue
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labor (FTQ), refused to give an interview Tuesday afternoon, saying in a statement that “all energy will be deployed at the negotiating table in order to reach a new agreement”.
Union adviser Michel Gratton said the walkout was suspended to give negotiations a last chance.
“We had an agreement, but it was refused by the members,” he said in a statement.
He indicated on Tuesday that the union wants all Quebecers to have access to SAQ products in time for the holidays and “we are therefore starting new intensive discussions with management tomorrow”.
One of the issues at the heart of the dispute was the entry salary.
Gratton said some members only get $ 17 an hour at the entry level. He said there were concerns about too much overtime and members expressed concern about workplace safety.
The SAQ is working to stock the shelves
Catherine Dagenais, President and CEO of the SAQ, said she was both surprised and disappointed at the rejection of the agreement.
“We have had difficulty hiring at the warehouse level over the past year,” she said.
“This is one of the elements that was part of the agreement. Our starting salaries were a bit low, less competitive. This is something we fixed in the agreement in principle. “
She said her priority was to find a solution with the union and make sure restaurants and consumers have stocks for the upcoming holiday season.
“Yes, the stock is there,” she said, “but it needs to be received at our locations. “
Dagenais said he visited stores and saw empty shelves. Most SAQ branches in the province have about a week’s stock, she said.
Some stores were due to increase their stocks on Tuesday, while the strike remained suspended, she said.
Asked about the potential resumption of the strike, Dagenais said the SAQ still “fully intends” to sit down and negotiate with the union.
“We want to get back to the negotiating table as quickly as possible,” she said in a statement.
Either way, there will likely be holes in the stock by Christmas, she said, but “there will always be some variety.”
She said the SAQ is doing everything it can to restock branch shelves and restock restaurants as quickly as possible.
The unionized SAQ storekeepers have been without a contract since April.