Malteurop’s Winnipeg workers end strike

Striking workers at Malteurop’s barley processing plant in Winnipeg have halted pickets pending arbitration but now find themselves short of work due to a staff lockout by one of the plant’s bigger customers.

The 22 Malteurop workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) Local 832, had applied for alternative dispute resolution and were sent back to work Tuesday by the Manitoba Labour Board, the union said.

UFCW and Malteurop both responded to the labour board and will now work on a return-to-work agreement, UFCW said in a release.

Meanwhile, the plant staff will get back to work under the terms of their previous collective agreement. An arbitrator is expected to rule on a new contract within the next 90 days, the union said.

But not all the plant’s staff will return to work immediately, as the beer taps have been shut at one of its biggest customers, Moosehead Breweries of Saint John, N.B.

Over 170 Moosehead workers, represented by the New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees, Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Local 362, were locked out Feb. 20. Their contract with the company expired at the end of 2010.

Moosehead, according to UFCW, has an exclusive supply deal with Malteurop.

“Until that dispute is settled, some of the UFCW members will have to wait until production picks up,” UFCW said late Tuesday.

“I am proud of the members who walked the picket line right to the end under extreme temperatures never complaining once,” UFCW Local 832 president Robert Ziegler said in his union’s release. “They stood up to the employer and fought against the concessions at the bargaining table. We look forward to the arbitrator’s ruling.”

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

French maltster Malteurop 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.

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