The union representing striking workers at the Labatt brewery in downtown St. John's claims that replacement workers are operating in an unsafe work environment — but the company says the union is fudging the facts to fit their agenda.
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees negotiator Chris Henley said Labatt is not forcing replacement workers to follow safety practices.
"The brewery, with its replacement workers, is not following occupational health and safety practices, and particular practices that they force on our members on a daily basis," Henley said.
According to Henley, a replacement worker was seriously injured on the assembly line earlier this month and had to go to hospital.
The company said the worker was out of the hospital in 30 minutes, and back to work the next day with nothing but a bruised elbow.
Henley said there was also a spill of caustic soda outside the plant two days ago. The company said just two cups of the substance was spilled during a delivery at the brewery, but the union claims otherwise.
"The spill was significant enough so that it ran down across the parking lot and had to be hosed down at a later date after we informed occupational health and safety," Henley said.
"It certainly wasn't what the brewery was basically claiming — a couple cups of caustic soda — it was significant."
Henley said he questions the safety of operations of the plant since the replacement workers were brought in.
Safety, productivity improved
Wade Keller, a spokesperson with Labatt said productivity at the plant is up, and the number of incidents has decreased since the replacement workers have come in.
"Safety has improved at the brewery since the strike began. Last year in the period between April and July we had nine incidents that we call first aid incidents at the brewery, and this year in the same time period — April to July — we've had three," Keller said.
According to Keller, the situation is a gross misrepresentation by NAPE to make the facts reflect their agenda.
"Since the strike began, we've been producing beer at the brewery and we've been doing it well," he said.
"The number of first aid incidents has gone down, productivity has gone up, sales has gone up, so I can see why NAPE may not want replacement workers because sometimes replacement workers do a very good job," Keller added.
The company and the union are set to resume negotiations this week. Workers have been on strike since late March.