A local employer is “disappointed” its employees chose to go on strike.
More than 400 workers at Coke Canada Bottling’s Richmond, Coquitlam and Chilliwack facilities walked off the job on July 13 to demand fair wages.
"We're looking for a monetary package for my members that is fair and balanced so they can maintain a cost of living and support their families in B.C., " said Jim Loyst, spokesperson for Teamsters Local 213 which represents the striking workers.
Loyst told the Richmond News the union has obtained two cease and desist orders from the B.C. Labour Relations Board over the past two weeks after Coke Canada was caught using illegal replacement workers.
He added that monitoring whether such replacement workers, also known as scabs, were being used is like a game of "cat and mouse" as Coke Canada has been transporting workers in buses.
Kathy Murphy, Coke Canada spokesperson, told the News the strike is "an unnecessary and unfortunate situation."
Murphy said, during bargaining, the company offered its unionized employees improvements including wage increases, new training, apprenticeship programs and more opportunities for overtime.
“The union is seeking a magnitude of increases that go beyond what is offered in the industry, across our business and that we simply cannot accept,” she added.
Murphy confirmed Coke Canada is deploying its “contingency plan” per B.C. labour laws, but is prepared to return to the bargaining table to resolve the issue “as soon as possible.”
Loyst, on the other hand, said Coke Canada's statement was "inaccurate and unfair."
Rather than asking for improvements beyond industry standards, said Loyst, members are in fact trying to improve on contracts that currently fall below industry standards.
He added that it was "disturbing" for Coke Canada to claim it was following labour laws when it was recently slapped with two cease and desists.
During a previous interview, workers at the Richmond manufacturing facility picket line told the News about their struggles to keep up with the cost of living in the Lower Mainland.
As the strike approaches its fourth week, Loyst hopes Coke Canada will return to the bargaining table and "give a little more" so members can support their families.
He wishes to continue to "seek a fair and balanced deal to recognize the workers' efforts in the past three years," during which Coke Canada has managed to rake in record profits, and asks that the company "invest in their workers as well."