News Briefs


Striking Molson workers reject offer as picket lines stretch into 11th week

Molson Coors logo on Molson Brewery brick tower in downtown Montreal, Quebec. It is one of the biggest beer producers in the world

MONTREAL - Hundreds of striking Molson Canada workers have rejected an offer from the beverage company, keeping more than 400 employees on the picket lines and bar owners with less on tap.

Teamsters Canada says the union local last week voted 92.4% against a collective agreement put on the table by the 236-year-old brewery in Montreal.

Teamsters spokeswoman Catherine Cosgrove said concerns over salary remain front and centre amid rampant inflation, on top of pension and work scheduling issues.

"As good as it may seem, the workers have to make sure they are not losing money by accepting the contract as presented,'' she said. The parties did not sit down to negotiate until May 23, she added.

Molson Coors spokesman Francois Lefebvre said the rejected deal marks its final offer following the walkout on March 25, with managers now having to deliver beer themselves under a contingency plan.

"This offer was more than generous. And this offer would have made our employees have the highest paying jobs in the beer industry in Quebec,'' he said in an interview. "The bars are kind of being held hostage.''

Renaud Poulin, head of the Quebec bar owners' association, says numerous pubs in more far-flung parts of the province are missing suds due to the 73-day strike.

"It's pretty tough. Everyone's missing beer. We don't have all the brands,'' he said.

Quebec's labour tribunal issued an interim order last month requiring Molson Canada to stop employing replacement workers until a union complaint can be heard by the quasi-judicial body.


A&W opening first trial of Pret A Manger brand in Vancouver this summer

 inside of Pret a Manger. Pret a Manger is a sandwich shop chain based in the United Kingdom

VANCOUVER - A&W plans to open the first trial of UK-based chain Pret A Manger this summer in Vancouver after signing an agreement granting the restaurant chain with master franchisor rights in Canada.

A&W says it is introducing Pret's freshly made food and organic coffee as part of a two-year pilot where it will open the Pret brand within A&W restaurants in select Canadian markets.

If the trial phase is successful, A&W Food Services will have the exclusive right to expand the Pret brand across Canada based on an agreed upon development schedule.

A&W chief executive Susan Senecal believes Canadian consumers will respond "very positively and come to love the Pret brand and all that it represents.''

The A&W Fund receives royalties equal to 3% of gross sales at 1,000 A&W restaurants in the royalty pool. The royalty would also apply to Pret products sold in restaurants.

Pret A Manger, which opened in London in 1986, offers sandwiches, salads and wraps, along with organic coffee in more than 550 shops in the U.K., U.S. and several other countries.

- The Canadian Press 


Mexico totally bans sales of e-cigarettes

no vaping signs

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador signed a decree Tuesday outlawing the sale of e-cigarettes, continuing the government’s anti-vaping policy.

Mexico had already prohibited imports of the devices since at least October. And even before that, consumer protection and other laws had been used to discourage sales.

Despite Tuesday’s decree, many Mexicans import or buy vaping cartridges or fluid under the table or online domestically.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López Gatell lashed out at industry claims that vaping is safer than smoking, calling it “a big lie.”

The government’s own figures estimate that at least 5 million Mexicans have tried vaping at least once.

-The Associated Press


Circle K partners with McLaren Formula 1 Team

Couche Tard new logo

Circle K is partnering with the McLaren Formula 1 Team during the highly anticipated return of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

In the days leading up to the practice sessions and the race on June 19th, the brand will hold special outdoor pit-stop challenges at select Couche-Tard locations in Montreal. Efforts will include exclusive content and a contest on social media.

ʺThe Canadian Grand Prix is a beloved and premier event that draws millions of viewers and fans globally so this partnership with McLaren is the ideal backdrop to showcase our global Circle K brand and our shared love for speed, convenience, and world-class mobility innovationʺ says Melissa Lessard, head of marketing for North America at Couche-Tard.


Newfoundland and Labrador cuts gas tax, promises $15 minimum wage by Oct. 1, 2023

Flag of Newfoundland and Labrador is the most easterly province of Canada

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The Newfoundland and Labrador government is temporarily cutting the provincial gas tax in half and promising a minimum wage of $15 an hour by October 2023.

Premier Andrew Furey told reporters the "temporary and targeted'' measures are intended to help people cope with the rising cost of living, driven mainly by spiking global oil prices.

He says the cuts to the provincial tax on gas and diesel will save consumers about eight cents a litre at the pump.

Labour Minister Bernard Davis says a $15 minimum wage will be phased in, beginning with a 50-cent increase to $13.70 on Oct. 1, followed by successive hikes to $14.50 next April and finally to $15 on Oct. 1, 2023.

Newfoundland and Labrador's minimum wage is $13.20 an hour, which was the fourth-lowest in the country as of May 1, according to the Retail Council of Canada.

Six other provinces and territories, including Ontario and British Columbia, offer a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour.

Josh Smee, chief executive officer of non-profit Food First NL, said in an interview the move is a sign of "real progress.''

"It's a small win, but it is a win,'' Smee said Thursday. "That's not to say it's enough - what $15 would have meant when people started asking for $15 is not what it means now, in terms of people's lives.''

The province is also offering a one-time rebate of up to $500 to residents who heat their home with oil, as well as a 50-cent-an-hour subsidy for small employers to help them transition to the higher minimum wage.

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady told reporters the measures add up to about $80 million, which will be paid for by higher-than-expected revenues from the province's offshore oil sector.

"Right now, we're holding on our deficit position,'' Coady said, referring to the $351-million shortfall forecast in the provincial budget delivered April 7.

As in the rest of the country, gas prices in Newfoundland and Labrador have skyrocketed, with Thursday's prices ranging from $2.22 a litre in St. John's to nearly $2.50 in parts of Labrador. The bill to cut the gas tax will be introduced in the provincial legislature on Monday, Furey said.

-The Canadian Press


Canadian merchants eligible to claim rebates after settlement with Visa, Mastercard

Credit Card, Visa, Master Card

TORONTO - Businesses in Canada may be eligible to claim hundreds of dollars in credit card processing fees following a multimillion-dollar class action settlement with Visa and Mastercard.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says merchants can now apply for rebates on so-called swipe fees charged on transactions dating back two decades.

The settlement comes as the pandemic quickened a shift away from cash towards digital payments as more consumers shopped online.

Corinne Pohlmann, senior vice-president of national affairs at CFIB, says credit card fees have become a growing issue for small businesses in Canada.

Credit cards charge merchants so-called interchange rates, a fee charged on every sale and paid to credit-card companies, payment processors and banks.

Those fees can range from as low as around one per cent for basic cards to nearly three per cent for cards that offer rewards such as cash back or loyalty points.

"The more perks on a card, the more expensive it is for a merchant to accept,'' Pohlmann said. "I don't think consumers understand how big a cost it could be for a merchant.''

While the settlement doesn't change the fees, it does allow businesses to apply for a refund of some of the fees paid since 2021.

The rebate ranges from $30 a year for small merchants, or up to $600, to $250 a year for larger merchants, or $5,000.

The settlement also gives merchants the power to pass credit card fees on to customers starting this fall.

While very few merchants are expected to add surcharges for accepting credit cards, Pohlmann said giving businesses the ability to recoup those fees will help them push back against future fee hikes.

Meanwhile, the federal government has repeatedly pledged to lower credit card processing fees for small businesses.

"They've promised to reduce fees for small- and medium-sized businesses to rates that are similar to what ... big businesses enjoy,'' said Gary Sands, senior vice-president of public policy with the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.

"But there's been a deafening silence from Ottawa.''

Sands said the amount being reimbursed by Visa and Mastercard represents a tiny fraction of fees paid. He also expressed concern that the settlement could be used by credit card companies as "camouflage in their battle to resist lowering their credit card fees.''

"The surcharge isn't a solution,'' he said. "What business is going to deliberately put themselves at a competitive disadvantage by passing those fees on to customers.''

- The Canadian Press