The North Star


SAQ employees on strike

Workers Occupy the Montreal Convention Centre in the Middle of a Management Meeting

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On April 24 and 25, employees of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) went on strike in several regions across Quebec. The strikers wanted to denounce the employer's ineffectiveness at the bargaining table, demand an end to the precariousness of part-time workers, who make up 70% of the workforce, and put a stop to the progressive reduction of their working conditions. In a stunning blow, unionized workers occupied the Montreal Convention Centre on Wednesday.

Members of the Syndicat des employés de magasins et de bureaux de la SAQ (SEMB-SAQ) have been in negotiations for over a year. According to a union press release, gains have been made on issues related to scheduling assignments, but the government remains stubborn about the precariousness of part-time employees and seems intent on continuing to progressively reduce the number of positions and benefits for workers. 

Part-time workers account for 70% of jobs and can wait more than 10 years for insurance. The employer also cut 64 regular positions in 2023, which heightened the general discontent of SEMB-SAQ members and led to the adoption of a strike mandate after 89% voted in favor of it in early March 2024.

The first day of the strike began around 10:15 a.m. at the Place des Festivals in Montreal. During a press briefing presented by Caroline Senneville, president of the CSN and Lisa Courtemanche, president of SEMB-SAQ, Senneville explains: 

"We've been with a conciliator since this fall. We're going back to the bargaining table on Monday morning, and we're hoping that the SAQ will make some overtures, because we can't negotiate when there are just 'nos' in front of us. [...] The employer needs to sit down with us seriously and demonstrate that there is a real intention to settle the collective agreement and that it really cares about recognizing its employees."

Following the press briefing, workers marched to the gates of the Montreal Convention Centre.

It was the same day that management decided to gather there for a festive SAQ managers' event to discuss the year's objectives. Workers jumped at the chance to occupy the building and make their voices heard. The North Star spoke to Laurent Desantis Caron, cashier-salesman and Montreal West regional shop steward, during the occupation:

"We came to make some noise at the Palais des congrès, because the launch of the SAQ's year with management is going on right now, and I'm proud to see that our members, despite the rain, despite the snow, we showed up, we got into the Palais des congrès, we made ourselves heard. We're just going to hope that the employer hears our discontent and makes sure to revise its positions."

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