Workers' union complains of safety violations at Labatt plant in N.L.

The union representing striking workers at a Labatt Brewing Company plant in St. John’s, N.L., is raising alarm bells about occupational safety risks posed by the use of replacement workers, but the company is firmly dismissing that charge.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) said there are reports of workplace injuries, accidents and potential violations of the province’s occupational health and safety legislation involving replacement workers at the Labatt plant.

“We have a situation at the plant where ill-trained and inexperienced workers are crossing a picket line to operate complex equipment and deal with potentially dangerous chemicals and caustic materials,” said NAPE president Carol Furlong. “This is a recipe for disaster.”

In a press release, she said the union has become aware of a “serious injury” sustained by a replacement worker while on the assembly line as well as a spill of a caustic substance.

“These incidents support our call for the government to enact anti-scab legislation,” said Furlong.

But Wade Keller, a Labatt spokesperson, dismissed the charges in an interview with NTV News. He called the union claims a “misrepresentation of the facts” and said every employee in the plant is fully qualified — including replacement workers. The spill Furlong referenced was minor, and was unrelated to the strike, he said.
Workers have been on strike since April 10.