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April 5, 2016 – The month-long strike by workers at Diageo’s Crown Royal distillery in Gimli, Manitoba is likely to last well into the summer after members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada voted to reject the company’s final contract offer. Local 832 members walked off the job March 5 after talks reached an impasse, with the key sticking points running the gamut from wages to benefits and vacation time.
The contract offer was put up for a vote after talks between the two sides with a conciliation officer from Manitoba’s provincial labor board. In a statement on the union’s web site, Local 832 president Jeff Traeger described the offer as an improvement from what had been offered before the strike, but that his members chose to reject it as inadequate. Traeger was unavailable for an interview.
A Diageo spokeswoman expressed the company’s disappointment over the contract rejection in a prepared statement:
“We have demonstrated our willingness to be flexible and have presented a very good offer that includes wage increases ahead of inflation, significant benefits increases, pension improvements, plus additional sick pay among other items. However, the union has refused to reciprocate. Nevertheless, we remain well-positioned to supply Crown Royal Canadian whisky to the market without interruption.”
While the whiskies used in Crown Royal’s blends are all distilled at the Gimli facility, blending and bottling takes place at Diageo’s plant in Amherstburg, Ontario. The production shutdown does not have an immediate impact on whisky supplies, since Canadian law requires at least a three-year maturation period before distilled spirit can legally be sold as whisky.
No further talks are scheduled, with a mandatory 60-day period before the union can request the provincial labor board to step in with “alternative dispute resolution”, in which a neutral arbitrator will consider both sides’ arguments and impose a one-year contract binding on both parties.