By Cal Braid
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An ongoing strike at the Roger’s Sugar refinery in Vancouver has reduced the supply of brown and white sugar on Western Canada’s grocery shelves. Roger’s has applied for mediation in an effort to reach a fair collective agreement with the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC) Local 8 that represents workers at that factory.
The Times reached out to the Lantic Taber facility to ask about added production pressure, their operations schedule, and who makes up their retail customer base, but we were directed to the company’s corporate headquarters.
Jean-Sebastien Couillard, vice president of finance, chief financial officer and corporate secretary for Lantic-Roger’s, said in a statement, “We are fully committed to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with our unionized staff in Vancouver and remain willing to engage in discussions aimed at finding a solution that works for the company and for the employees, and that supports our customers. This means negotiating an agreement that provides fair wages, benefits and working conditions, including an adjustment to work schedules for roughly one quarter of the Vancouver workforce.”
The strikers are opposed to the “adjustment in work-schedules,” specifically 24-hour a day operations that the company was intent on implementing.
“The demand for sugar in Canada is growing as our population increases and as food manufacturers who employ thousands of Canadians expand their businesses. That’s why we are building capacity in eastern Canada and seeking to run the Vancouver plant on the same schedule that successful manufacturers all around the world employ,” Couillard said in a statement.
Adrian Soldera, president of PPWC Local 8, told Global News the refinery operates 120 hours a week between Monday and Friday.
“We are working hard to support our customers throughout the labour disruption. Since the beginning of the strike, the Vancouver sugar refinery has continued to operate at a reduced level, and we have used our other facilities to support our valued customers in Western Canada. We acknowledge that this has resulted in localized impacts on supply in Western Canada of some sugar products, particularly brown sugar and some packaged white sugar,” Couillard said.
“When it comes to the bulk and liquid sugars that make up roughly 90 per cent of the market in Canada, there is ample supply. We recognize that this has created inconvenience for some of our valued customers. We apologize for that, and we thank all our customers for their continued patience as we seek a resolution.”
On Twitter/X, workers have attempted to use this statement against the company, asking why, if there’s ample supply, the refinery would move to scheduling round-the-clock operations. Sugar shortages continue to occur in southern Alberta and throughout the Prairies.