On November 22, nearly 800 Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) employees working in the warehouses and delivery have called another general strike until November 24. This strike has clearly caused a break in the supply chain and it's becoming apparent on stores' shelves — right before Christmas when people are likely hitting the SAQ the most.
The strike is also disrupting delivery to branches, restaurants, bars, grocery stores and convenience stores.
"This could temporarily reduce the supply of products available in stores," SAQ spokesperson Yann Langlais-Plante told Narcity, which was clear at an SAQ in Griffintown where the shelves were rather empty.
On social networks, some Quebecers have noted that multiple products are missing from stores. In the comments on Narcity Québec's Facebook post, one user, Sandra Ouellet, filmed their experience at the SAQ in Pointe-aux-Trembles on Sunday, November 21, showing the nearly empty shelves in the store.
Some Quebecers seemed rather surprised by the lack of products and wondered why the store was out of stock: "That's why there was nothing when we went," exclaimed this user.
In a press release, CUPE union advisor Michel Gratton said, "SAQ management is forcing our hand. The wages of these workers are no longer competitive and they have to work too much overtime because of the labour shortage. This shortage is causing health and safety problems in the workplace."
"The management of the Crown Corporation refuses to address this issue and therefore lacks seriousness at the bargaining table."
SAQ employees had already engaged in a surprise 24-hour strike on November 16 to demand better working conditions and a wage increase. And now they're back at it again.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents the employees, issued a press release Wednesday morning announcing a truce after workers had been on strike for two days.
"We don't want to hold SAQ customers hostage and since we are finally seeing some progress at the negotiation table, we agree to suspend the strike for a few days to give the talks a last chance," said CUPE representative Michel Gratton in the release.
"The union negotiating committee will put all its energy toward the bargaining table to reach an agreement before Monday."
This strike has led to breaks in the SAQ's supply chain and disrupted regular product deliveries. Quebecers have even posted photos and videos of near-empty shelves at SAQ stores.
So what's CUPE's reason for striking in the first place?
"The management of the SAQ has forced our hand. Employee salaries are no longer competitive, and members have to work too many hours of overtime due to the labour shortage, which has caused occupational health and safety problems. Management has refused to look into this issue, and they haven't [been] serious at the bargaining table," Gratton said in a statement.
CUPE also said it "discovered a scheme by management" that planned to use scabs, or replacement workers, to "get around the law and avoid negotiating in good faith."
Joel Latour, president of the Syndicat des travailleurs et travailleuses de la SAQ, spoke out on the issue by criticizing the government for turning a blind eye to illegal practices and setting a bad example for other companies.
"It is illegal and we have begun legal proceedings," he said.
The SAQ also went on a surprise 24-hour strike on November 16. CUPE said union members — who have been working without contracts since April — voted 94% in favour of strike action.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
The SAQ has launched its first podcast so you can now get expert booze information straight from Quebec's alcohol/liquor commission without chasing down employees at your local branch — or waiting in line to get through the door.
It's also automatically the most socially acceptable SAQ "product" you can bring with you on a morning jog.
The French-language podcast is called Sous le bouchon. According to an SAQ press release, it gives listeners "a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the beverage alcohol trade in Quebec" through conversations with experts.
Sous le bouchon kicks off with a three-episode mini-series focused on the environment and buying local.
The first episode, "Vin et changements climatiques (wine and climate change)," is a conversation with Gilles Goulet, head of purchasing for all products from France, and Marie-Ève Meunier, a beverage alcohol merchandising specialist, on how climate change is affecting wine production.
The second and third episodes, which come out December 3, are about Quebec products and lightweight glass.
This isn't the SAQ's only foray into creating content in order to further engage with its customers. In 2017, it launched Le goût de partagermagazine, dedicated to gourmet pleasures, and it publishes Cellier, a magazine showcasing fine wines and spirits, multiple times a year.
The SAQ website also has an "Inspiration" section dedicated to recipes — both food and beverage — as well as interviews, events, profiles of wine producers and more.
The Sous le bouchon podcast is available on the SAQ website as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
Time to make some adjustments to your monthly wine budget, folks. The SAQ is officially moving forward with price increases on over 1,300 products.
And it's in part a direct consequence of climate change, according to the SAQ.
Prices will increase by an average of 1.66% — or $0.40 — on 1,332 products.
The Crown corporation says products from France will see the biggest increases, ranging from 2.1% to 11.8%. Products produced in Spain, Portugal and Italy will see an average price increase of 1.5%.
"Wine-growing regions that are much appreciated by our customers have been severely and repeatedly affected by bad weather related to global warming, especially early in the year," Catherine Dagenais, President and CEO of the SAQ, said in a press release.
"These developments have greatly reduced product availability in some regions. [...] While being sympathetic to the unprecedented challenges faced by a number of our producers, we continue to give Quebecers access to the products they enjoy and to do so at the best possible price."
In addition, 619 specialty batch products will see an average 2.6% price increase.
The price increases at the SAQ are set to go into effect on November 7, 2021.
Éduc'alcool, an independent organization that encourages moderate drinking, found that Mauricie had the highest rate of excessive drinking in 2021 while Outaouais had the lowest rate of excessive drinking in the province this year. Nord-du-Québec was not included in the survey.
This means the mayor of Gatineau gets to keep "The Éduc'alcool Moderation Trophy" at City Hall until the next survey takes place in two years.
Here's the full list going from most moderate drinkers to most excessive drinkers:
Laval and Centre-du-Québec
Gaspésie-Iles–de-la-Madeleine and Chaudière-Appalaches
Estrie and Abitibi-Témiscamingue
Lanaudière, Laurentides, Capitale-Nationale and Montérégie
SaguenayLac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord
"This survey, which we have been conducting every two years since 2015, is not intended as a competition. It is designed to take a snapshot of drinking across Quebec and highlight the situation in each region," said Hubert Sacy, Éduc'alcool's director general, in a statement.
"We hope it will lead all Quebecers, wherever they live, to reflect upon their drinking habits and modify them, as needed."
In Montreal, people drink most in bars or while gambling, according to the survey. The survey also found that Montreal has the highest percentage of Quebecers whose drinking has had a negative impact on their friendships, social lives and family lives.
Montrealers are also most likely to mix alcohol with weed, along with folks in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and Chaudière-Appalaches.