Moosehead, union should fight drug costs: advocate

Originally published by CBC News on February 23nd, 2010. To go to the CBC News website please click here

A leading advocate for retired Canadians says Moosehead Breweries and its locked out union should join forces to take on drug companies.

Moosehead is asking future retirees to pick up 30 per cent of health benefits, such as prescription drugs, citing skyrocketing prescription drug costs.

Susan Eng, of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, says the fight shouldn’t be between workers and their employer.

‘All of the parties here should be focusing on why drugs cost so much.’

Eng said the two sides should join forces with the provincial government to fight for lower drug costs.

Moosehead locked out its 172 unionized workers after negotiations broke down last weekend. Drug costs for retirees are a key issue in the dispute.

“We’ve asked our employees if they would cost-share the post-retirement health care,” said Moosehead spokesman Joel Levesque.

Levesque said the company currently pays 100 per cent of the costs.

Retirement health benefits will continue to be a hot topic in New Brunswick as baby boomers retire, said Mike Haan, a demographer from the University of New Brunswick.

“Ten or 15 years from now, health care costs will start to escalate because the rate at which people start to get sick really starts to climb after age 75 or so,” he said.

Contract talks between the union and the brewery broke down on Saturday night.

Moosehead staff arrived at work on Sunday night and discovered they were locked out from the Saint John brewery.

Luke Coleman, the vice-president of the New Brunswick Union of Private and Public Employees local representing Moosehead workers, said the contract talks are about protecting benefits for former workers.

“We’re obviously trying to preserve a benefit. And the company was committed to realizing some savings,” Coleman said.

© CBC News

Keywords: drugs, costs, retirement