Over 360 workers at Nestlé Canada’s manufacturing plant in Toronto are on strike after talks aimed at securing improvements to employees defined pension plan broke down.
Local representatives from the union Unifor had been trying to negotiate fairer pension terms for production workers – who make a variety of chocolate bars, including Kit Kat and Aero - but Nestlé is steadfast in its refusal and an official strike was finally invoked from midnight May 3.
Pension plans force strikes
The dispute erupted after Nestlé announced it wanted to abolish the existing defined pension for all employees, but it subsequently revised its plan to include only new and future workers. In exchange for protected pensions, employees have been asked to accept a three-year wage freeze.
Unifor local membership chairperson, Said Duale, said: “The company first came to the table with the goal of eliminating the defined benefit pension plan altogether, which was a complete non-starter for us.
"They then suggested a formula that would allow most workers to keep the current pension plan, but replace it with a defined contribution plan for 25% of current employees and all future employees. For workers who have not had an increase to their pension in four years, this is unreasonable."
Nestlé hopes to resume bargaining
Negotiations stalled on 4 May but resumed last Wednesday and Nestlé remains resolute that there will be no other improvements to wages or benefits in their offer.
Nestlé Canada vice president of corporate affairs, Catherine O’Brien said: “We regret that we were not able to reach a deal and are hopeful we will be able to resume bargaining. We value our employees and our goal is to have our employees back at work.”
Unifor's National President Jerry Dias, said: "It just doesn't appear that they are as committed as us to finding an agreement that is fair for everyone This isn't about one collective agreement; it's about retirement security and good jobs for future generations.”
Unifor represents approximately 88,000 workers in manufacturing, 9,600 of whom work in the food and beverage industry. It serves more than 305,000 workers across the country.