Coke products have been inconsistently supplied to stores in the Lower Mainland since a strike began at distribution plants on July 24. The union was set to vote on a tentative agreement on Aug. 10. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Coke strike in Lower Mainland set to end Thursday

Workers in Richmond, Coquitlam, Chilliwack and the Sunshine Coast to vote on tentative agreement

The strike of Coke employees in the Lower Mainland that led to inconsistent supply of the company’s products is set to be over Thursday.

The 370 unionized workers on strike at four Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada warehouses and production facilities were set to ratify an agreement negotiated earlier in the week, according to a spokesperson for the Teamsters Local 213.

Talks on since March over contract language regarding health and welfare, as well as an issue with changes to pensions, broke off in late July between the company and Teamsters Local 213, which represents workers in Richmond, Coquitlam, Chilliwack and on the Sunshine Coast.

“We don’t want to give up our defined benefits,” said Jim Loyst, business representative for Teamsters Local 213, at the time.

Workers were on the picket line at the Chilliwack bottling plant and distribution centre on Yale Road West for more than two weeks.

Stores in some locations started to see shortages, and Safeway posted a sign to customers regarding the labour dispute.

“The supply from Coke is not available consistently at the moment throughout the Lower Mainland,” according to the notice.

Work was still being done at the facilities by non-unionized support staff and administrators, according to the company.

The union, however, had some suspicions that illegal workers were being used.

“We can’t confirm the company is using illegal workers under the labour code, however, we have concerns,” Loyst said.

In a statement provided by the company, it said despite months of negotiations and several mediation sessions, the union chose to stop negotiating and go on strike.

Loyst said they had met 17 times and had four days of mediation, but things were narrowed down to the two major issues.

In the Coca-Cola statement, the company said the proposal is in line with agreements reached in other facilities.

“While we would have preferred to reach an agreement at the bargaining table, we respect the union’s right to strike. We hope the union respects our obligation to continue to meet our customer needs during the strike, which at this time is our primary focus. Comprehensive contingency planning has been underway for months to address this possibility and we are continuing to service our customers.

“We remain committed to the collective bargaining process, and are prepared to return to the bargaining table to successfully conclude negotiations and reach a new collective agreement.”

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