Couche-Tard workers rally for union rights

Former Couche-Tard workers will hand out free hot dogs and fries later today as part of a rally to mark one year since they lost their jobs following a successful unionization drive.
The Couche-Tard outlet at Jean-Talon and Iberville Streets was closed a year ago, after contract talks started toward the employees' first collective agreement. (Radio-Canada)

Employees of a Couche-Tard outlet that shut down after they unionized plan to rally outside the Montreal location Saturday afternoon, marking one year since they lost their jobs.

Promoting it as a family event, the workers will be serving up hot dogs and fries alongside colleagues from other outlets and from their union. The rally is at Iberville and Jean-Talon Streets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Workers at the convenience-store chain have been battling for collective agreements at a half-dozen other stores, where their union says they'll fight to the end.

Employees rally outside the closed Couche-Tard after it closed last year. (CBC)

The Confédération des syndicates nationaux, Quebec's second-largest labour federation, is in negotiations toward contracts at three of those outlets.

It's also contesting the closure of two of them following their successful unionization drives. Quebec's labour board resumed hearings into those cases — the Iberville outlet and another in Montreal — last week.

The CSN is seeking a wage hike to a high of $12.80 an hour for Couche-Tard employees with several years' service, plus four days of paid sick leave annually. Currently, employees start at minimum wage and have no paid sick days.

The labour federation accuses the company of dragging its feet in negotiations as part of an anti-union policy. The outlets bargaining toward collective agreements are in Longueuil, the Montreal neighbourhood of Pierrefonds and Saint-Liboire, a municipality about 75 kilometres east of Montreal.

Couche-Tard says the outlets it closed weren't profitable enough.

The company reported adjusted net profits of $168 million in its most recent financial quarter. It made $458 million in fiscal 2012, up 24 per cent from the year before, according to its financial statements.

With files from The Canadian Press