Malteurop’s Winnipeg workers hit the bricks

Unionized workers at Malteurop’s barley processing plant in Winnipeg expect the strike they launched Thursday morning to last into the new year.

The plant’s workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 832, walked off the job at 6 a.m. and expect to staff pickets 24/7 “until an agreement is reached.”

The union said the French maltster’s North American arm “seemed entrenched in pushing the members out the door” after 14 days of contract bargaining, including five with a Manitoba government conciliator.

“It became evident with its last offer that Malteurop was not serious about negotiating,” Local 832 secretary-treasurer Jeff Traeger said in a statement Thursday.

“The company is driven to offload the responsibility of the pension plan and divide the membership with a grandfathering clause for wages that we feel is completely unnecessary.”

Most notable among Malteurop Canada’s customers St. John, N.B.-based Moosehead Breweries, which according to the union has an exclusive supply deal with Malteurop.

The plant, in Winnipeg’s eastern Transcona area, also supplies other beer companies such as local microbrewer Half-Pints.

It’s not known whether Moosehead or any of the Transcona plant’s other customers could be easily supplied from Malteurop’s other malt plants, such as its three U.S. facilities in Milwaukee, Wis., Winona, Minn. and Great Falls, Mont. A company representative wasn’t immediately available for comment Thursday.

Malteurop, based in Reims, France with 23 malting plants in 12 countries, has owned the Transcona plant since 2008 when it bought the assets of ADM Malting.

The plant has an annual production capacity of 90,000 tonnes of Pilsen malt, used by brewers as a base malt, particularly for lagers. All three Malteurop plants in the U.S. also produce Pilsen.

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