It is sad that the announcement of the removal of the Quebec flag attracted more attention than the loss of hundreds of jobs at the Crown corporation. Not only did the flags receive more attention, but the management of the SAQ flip-flopped on the issue within 24 hours while talks to minimize the impact of the announced cuts face a brick wall.

“It is outrageous that the management of the SAQ can backtrack on cuts to accessories in less time than it takes to say “flag”, while it sends out severance letters to our workers. We think it was a sorry decision to remove the Quebec flag outside the branches, but the decision to remove jobs is far worse,” said Patrick Lessard, president of CUPE Local 3535.

Although the Union has tried to have discussions with the corporation to evaluate working methods, as it has always done, and to find solutions to challenges, this time the discussions have been non-productive and all proposals rejected.

What’s more, yesterday Minister Leitão issued a statement which proposes the privatization of the SAQ. He can declare that he is neither for nor against the idea, but given the adoption of Bill 88, the Act respecting development of the small-scale alcoholic beverage industry, allowing Quebec producers to sell their products directly in grocery and convenience stores, he has paved the way for privatization.

“It is clear from Minister Leitão’s statement yesterday that the SAQ has a hidden agenda,” said Bruno Tremblay, CUPE Union representative. “The Government is preparing the ground for privatisation by tearing down the entire structure of our Crown corporation. This raises obvious questions.”

With more than 110,000 members in Quebec, CUPE is active in 10 sectors, including social services, communications, education, universities, energy, municipalities, government corporations and public agencies, urban and air transport, and the mixed sector.