Mont-Laurier extends Pepsi boycott over job losses

The town of 13,800 in the upper Laurentians has decided it will shun Pepsi products following the company's decision to shut down a distribution centre in the region.

Business owners, residents staged protest last week after distribution centre closed its doors

Residents and merchants boycotted Pepsi products for two days last week. (Sylvain Pagé/Facebook)

Merchants and townspeople in a regional hub in the upper Laurentians have decided to continue their boycott of Pepsi products, following the beverage company's decision to shut down a distribution centre there.

In May, the closing of the warehouse in Mont-Laurier, located about 240 kilometres northwest of Montreal, resulted in the loss of about 40 jobs. 

The boycott of PepsiCo's products that began last week will resume Thursday, unless the company reaches an agreement with the town by 5 p.m. Tuesday, a local convenience store owner, Francis Verreault, told CBC.

"We want jobs in the region," said Parti Québécois MNA Sylvain Pagé.

Mont-Laurier has a population of just under 14,000 people, and Pagé said that the impact on employment is the equivalent of a city the size of Montreal losing 4,500 jobs.

Last week's two-day boycott was encouraged by the town's administration, which went so far as to advertise it on its website and call for merchants to do the same in a gesture of solidarity.

The town of Mont-Laurier has a population of nearly 14,000 people. (Radio-Canada)

"Say 'no' to job losses," and "Show your solidarity!" read the posters.

About 80 businesses took part in last week's boycott. Some put tape over vending machines. Others locked them, to prevent customers from buying the company's products.

While some merchants chose not to sell any Pepsi-affiliated products at all, one bar offered Coca-Cola drink specials in response to the job cuts.

CBC News has requested a comment from PepsiCo but has yet to hear back.

Meeting with Pepsi

Mont Laurier officials and Pagé met Pepsi representatives last week to discuss reopening the centre but could not reach an agreement.

Pagé said they told the company they had until 8 a.m. Monday to come up with a solution, since that's when Mont-Laurier and business owners will decide if they will continue their boycott and discuss other pressure tactics.

"The owners of dépanneurs, restaurateurs told us that if it was necessary, they will continue [the boycott]." said Pagé.

"People have had enough."

Economic opportunities are becoming scarcer in Mont-Laurier, Pagé added. The town recently had 33 positions in the public health care system relocated to Saint-Jérôme, nearly two hours away.

"We can't centralize everything in Quebec and Montreal," he said. "It's very important for both the state and private corporations to keep good jobs in the region."

With files from Radio-Canada