Quebecor locks out workers from Mirabel printing plant, seeks new mediator

MONTREAL – Quebecor has locked out workers at its printing plant in Mirabel, north of Montreal.

The Teamsters union said the lockout directly affects 44 press workers, mechanics, electricians and handlers.

Meanwhile, the union said it was also trying to address payments for 35 workers who were recently laid off because of lower printing volumes and the ending of commercial activities. Another 15 workers were let go last January.

The plant prints a number of newspapers, including Montreal French-language dailies Le Devoir and le Journal de Montreal.

Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) said that it had no other choice but lock out employees after months of negotiations failed to reach a new contract. It is seeking the appointment of a different mediator.

“We were determined to reach an agreement as soon as possible, …” Richard Tremblay, vice-president of industrial operations, said in a news release.

“We do not understand the refusal of the union, especially in a context where neither working conditions nor job security were part of negotiations,” he added.

The company said it also acted to “protect the company’s assets” following a difficult lockout in 2006.

Union spokesman Stephane Lacroix said it was unclear why the company took such a dramatic action when the two sides aren’t too far apart.

“The bosses have not told us clearly what was not working (in the negotiations),” he said in an interview, adding that the union was ready to make compromises on minimum job levels and possible severance pay.

“There is a sense that everything was already scripted and choreographed,” he said, nothing the union suspects Quebecor wants to sell the printer.

“Rumour has it that the plant is for sale, so this may explain it,” he said.

— With files from Lia Levesque