Unhappy with being forced to pay half of its workers’ life insurance premiums, Résidences Soleil owner Eddy Savoie is taking it out on his workers by making them pay… for their coffee!
This bizarre story began in October 2012 when the management of Résidences Soleil decided to do away with its long-standing practice of paying 50% of its employees’ life insurance premiums. Teamsters Local Union 106 filed grievances to protest against this arbitrary decision.
The parties reached an agreement in July of this year, thus avoiding arbitration. However, just one week after reimbursing its workers, management issued a directive stating that workers could no longer drink the coffee served to residents: “Employees wishing to drink coffee shall so do at their own expense during their break. Failure to respect this directive will entail disciplinary measures,” states the memo.
Oddly enough, before the agreement regarding the insurance premiums, the roughly 450 workers affected by this directive were allowed to have a coffee whenever they wanted.
“According to our members, the workers would rather throw out leftover coffee than offer it to them,” fumed Jean Chartrand, president of Teamsters Local 106. “Management’s pettiness has reached new heights at Résidences Soleil.”
Although it may seem anecdotal, this story is an accurate reflection of the labour relations between Eddy Savoie and his workers. In fact, this ridiculous rule applies even to workers who do not have the life insurance benefit.
“The way I see it, this new directive is intended to offset the $1.50 weekly premium the employer has to pay,” added the labour leader. So once again, Eddy Savoie is making a laughing stock of himself and antagonizing the very people responsible for his success.”
Highly strained relations between the union and the employer
What is being dubbed as the “Résidences Soleil coffee affair” is not the only clash between the Teamsters Union and the employer. Résidences Soleil management refuses to give representatives of the Fonds de solidarité FTQ access to the workplace, thereby preventing workers from obtaining the information they need to contribute to a pension plan. Yet the only thing the union is asking for is access to its office in each residence, which has no impact on operations and entails no additional cost for the employer.
Then there’s the fact that the union has filed countless grievances and that shop stewards can never obtain leave to answer members’ questions.
“The situation has become unbearable and industrial peace is being threatened at Résidences Soleil,” cautions Jean Chartrand. “Eddy Savoie has two choices, either work with us to find mutually acceptable solutions or alienate his workers.”
The collective agreements in six of the seven residences expire in 2017 and negotiations are already underway at the Manoir Sainte-Julie residence.
The Teamsters Union has no plans to employ pressure tactics at this time, but the next bargaining round could be tough.
“Résidences Soleil’s residents, who are largely sympathetic to our cause, will not be affected by any pressure tactics, if it comes to that,” concluded Mr. Chartrand. “We have a good relationship with them and they understand that all we’re looking for is justice and fairness.”
Teamsters Canada represents 120,000 members in Canada in all industries. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.
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Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Public Relations