Friday, January 29, 2010

SAQ Conspires With Union to Raise Salaries 30%

If there's anything unionized employees of Quebec's liquor monopoly, (Société des alcools du Québec) learned from their ill-fated strike four years ago, it's that it's a lot better to cooperate with their employer than fight.

Throughout the three month strike the employer managed to operate about 10% of it's 400 retail locations with management personnel. The stores operated at full capacity with customers seemingly unaffected, except for the longer drive, lineups at the checkout and the diminished selection. Customers were inconvenienced but not to the point of supporting the strikers, after all booze is booze and those in need will make the effort and suffer the inconvenience. Amazingly the SAQ made more money during the strike then before or after, thus providing us with the lesson that the SAQ has too many locations and employees.

At any rate, the days of confrontation between the union and the SAQ is over. A brand new collective agreement calls for a massive raise for employees.

On Thursday morning Jean-Luc Mongrain (TVA) interviewed representatives of both management and the union and it was as if they were brother and sister, singing in harmony.

Mongrain has a very particular way of interviewing. While remaining deferential and polite, his acerbic and well researched inquiries are to the point and quite disarming.

Throughout the interviews, Mr. Mongrain continued to pound home the point that the new deal provided an experienced SAQ cashier/clerk a salary of, wait for it---- $28.71 an hour.

No it's not a typo, $28.71 an hour for punching the cash register and pointing the way to the Chablis aisle.
What are the qualifications for this job? A high school diploma.
A first year medical resident, a doctor, is paid about $20 an hour. A clerk in your average retail store makes between minimum wage and $12 an hour.

How good is the salary? Well, during the negotiations, the union was offered performance bonuses which they promptly voted against. After all who needs to work hard for a small bonus when you're already making $29 an hour?

Both the union and the company representatives tried to explain away the increase based on a pay equity settlement which was mandated by law and with which they had no control over.
The pay equity law forces companies to match salaries in categories of jobs that are traditionally manned by females to those of comparable male dominated groups. To read more about the ridiculous lengths that this law goes to, read my post.

And so the SAQ employees who man (or woman) the registers got a big salary boost because of the interpretation of law that declared the women discriminated against, in terms of renumeration.

But a closer look and a rigid application of the law shows that employees did not qualify at all for this pay equity settlement.

The law provides that when a certain job description or type is occupied by over 60% females, those employees (both male and female) are subject to the pay equity legislation and may be eligible for compensation (an investgation is required.)

But in the case of the SAQ, the cashier/clerks group comprises of only 57% females and thus does not qualify for pay equity!

When pressed on the issue, an SAQ spokesman spokeswoman, Isabelle Merrizi explained that even though the employees didn't technically qualify, the number of woman in the catagory was growing and that within a couple years would breach the sixty percent line. They decided as a company to face the issue early. Arrrggghhh!!!!!!

What company in the world would make such a stupid decision? Could you imagine a boss in private industry doing the same?

The whole story stinks to high heaven.
Instead of giving the employees a pay equity settlement based on future projections, wouldn't a prudent employer just hire an equal number of men and women and maintain the status quo?

The fact, that the SAQ is increasing the amount of woman in this category is in itself discriminatory. Isn't it against the law to announce beforehand that more women than men will be hired?

The truth is that the bosses at the SAQ don't really care. They are lazy and don't want another strike, they had to work too hard during the walkout. Working the register is something they hadn't bargained for and they'll do anything to avoid it in the future, including giving away the candy store.

The SAQ produced $800 million in profits for the government last year. If that profit fell to $750 million, it's no skin off management's nose. Nobody ever gets fired for non-performance and hey, labour peace has a price....


  1. This stupid practice of monopoly and its implications make me glad that I do not drink alcohol. Not anymore, at least...

  2. Check out the bonus the bosses get from manager to the PDG..... Dose any know how much they get?

  3. if it was legal to buy your alcohol out of province I'd say-

    Boycott the SAQ

    oh well too bad

  4. How about privatization instead? In Alberta where this route was taken the average store clerk in a liquor shop earns about $11.25 an hour. Booze is much cheaper, thus benefitting consumers. You can also invest your money in liquor store unit trusts on the TSX too. Why is the government even in the business of selling booze anyways?

  5. i work at saq ..i wish i made that much(after 20 years)no i make 23$ an hour.

  6. $28 to say, "it's great with chicken!"

    1. I work at the SAQ , And I make 19$ a hour and Ive been there for 4 years..