Mont Tremblant employees spent their Christmas on the picket lines last week after 1,500 union members rejected a counter-offer by resort owner Intrawest.
Of the 831 workers that voted on Intrawests offer, 61 per cent rejected a plan that would have raised hourly wages by 16 per cent over the next five years. The union, which is affiliated with the Confederation of National Trade Unions, is asking for 15 per cent over three years, as well as more vacation time, changes to sick pay and a company pension plan the same deal awarded to Quebecs unionized hotel workers a few months earlier. The union recommended that employees vote against the Intrawest offer.
Its estimated that the strike is costing Intrawest an average of $1 million each day since the walkout on Dec. 17, with a skeleton staff of 200 managers keeping 37 trails and two lifts running, as well as a majority of stores and restaurants in the village.
According to Intrawest, the Mont Tremblant employees are already the highest paid in Canada. In addition, they claim the deal awarded to Quebec hotel employees should not be applied because Tremblant employees are primarily involved in resort operations, rather than hotels.
"It should be remembered that 83 per cent of our employees do not work in hotel-related tasks," the company wrote in response to the unions rejection of its offer. "Moreover, positions that are hotel-related (affecting 17 per cent of our employees) depend on outsourced contracts awarded to Mont Tremblant Resort by the owners of on-site hotels. In order to continue to enjoy these contracts, and the jobs they provide, Mont Tremblant Resort has to remain competitive.
"The Mont Tremblant Resort offer is deemed to be better than any agreement negotiated in our industry over the past two years. If accepted by employees, the latter will receive a minimum salary increase of 16 per cent spread over the five years (three per cent per year from 2005 to 2008, and four per cent in 2009). Additionally, over 440 employees are slated to receive retroactive salary increases of between 18 per cent and 31.2 per cent. In this context it should be remembered that Mont Tremblant Resort employees are already the best paid in the ski industry."
According to the CNTU, Intrawests offer was interesting but did not address union concerns over job stability, subcontracting, the length of the collective agreement and the pension fund. The workers have been without a contract since the last five-year deal ended on Oct. 31.
There were no new talks over Christmas, which is the busiest time of the year for the resort. Intrawest also said that if it could not resolve the strike by Tuesday, Dec. 27 the company would begin to cancel reservations at Intrawest hotels.
Its not just vacations that were affected by the strike. The Federation Internationale de Ski announced this week that it would move the 2006 Freestyle Grand Prix, set for Tremblant on Jan. 6-8, to nearby Ski Mont Gabriel.
Gabriel, a subsidiary of Mont Saint-Sauveur International, said they were determined to keep the event on Canadian soil, and work has already started on the competition sites. With Quebec resorts receiving close to a metre of snow in the last few weeks, organizers are confident they will be able to build mogul and aerial sites for the event.