Moosehead lockout hinges on benefit dispute
Moosehead Breweries is continuing to lock out 172 unionized employees as a dispute continues to revolve around post-retirement benefits.
Many of Moosehead's unionized employees in Saint John are closing in on retirement and benefits they hoped to enjoy are now at risk. Contract talks between the union and the brewery broke down on Saturday night.
Moosehead staff arrived at work on Sunday night and discovered they were locked out from the Saint John brewery.
Luke Coleman, the vice-president of the New Brunswick Union local representing Moosehead workers, said the contract talks are about protecting benefits for former workers.
"We're obviously trying to preserve a benefit. And the company was committed to realizing some savings," Coleman said.
The beer company now pays 100 per cent of drug costs for its retired workers.
The union and the company both said on Monday that the two sides were not that far apart in resolving the labour dispute.
Joel Levesque, a Moosehead spokesman, said the company is seeking to move to a plan where retirees over 65 would pick up 30 per cent of the costs associated with their post-retirement benefit.
"So we've asked our employees if they would cost share the post retirement health care," Levesque said.
At the moment the company is not producing beer at its Saint John plant.
Levesque said Moosehead has a partner company that makes its lager exclusively for the Quebec market.
"We'll be looking at our options in terms of producing beer. We have enough inventory right now to make sure our customers needs are met," he said.
Union members say an unusually large amount of product was shipped from the brewery last week.