Less than a day after reporting that contract talks had resumed, Metro Inc. and Unifor Local 414 on Wednesday reached a tentative agreement in the 32-day-old strike by 3,700 workers at 27 of the grocer’s supermarkets in the Toronto area.
The preliminary accord came together quickly after tensions between Montreal-based Metro and Unifor had heightened. Metro filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Unifor with the Ontario Labor Relations Board following the start of a “secondary picket” by the union at two distribution facilities in Toronto on Aug. 23. And on Tuesday, Metro confirmed that it was granted a temporary injunction to stop picketers from blocking fresh food deliveries from the two distribution centers and impeding operations at corporate offices.
“The agreement, which is fair and equitable for our employees and our customers, is unanimously recommended by the union’s bargaining committee and will put an end to the labor dispute if ratified,” Metro said Wednesday in a statement on the tentative contract deal. “It will be submitted to the employees for a ratification vote that will take place shortly. The union will present the details of the agreement to its members at that time.”
Metro associates represented by Unifor Local 414 walked off the job on July 29 at the 27 stores after rejecting an earlier tentative contract agreement, which was reached July 19. Located in 13 greater Toronto communities, the stores—save for their pharmacies—have been shut since the strike got under way.
Unifor said Wednesday that a ratification vote for the new tentative contract will be held “in the coming days,” and terms of the deal will be released after being presented to members at the votes.
“Our union was able to negotiate this new tentative agreement due to the unwavering commitment of our Metro grocery members, who were united in their goal to improve their wages and working conditions,” Unifor National President Lana Payne stated. “I commend the workers and the bargaining committee for their solidarity and also the customers who supported them during this difficult time.”
At Unifor’s Canadian Council summit earlier this month, Local 414 President Gord Currie noted that Metro’s cancellation of $2-per-hour bonus pay enacted during the pandemic was a sore point among union members and sparked the strike. The union also had described Metro’s previous contract proposal as falling well short of what workers had sought.
“This tentative agreement acknowledges the economic struggle that many of our members face,” Currie commented Wednesday about the new contract up for a vote. “I am very proud of these members and their determination.”
The tentative contract presented in July provided increases in wages for employees in all four years of the agreement, according to Metro. That included $3.75 more by July 2026 for full-time and senior part-time employees, as well as $2.65 more by the same date for other part-time employees. Metro said the deal also included a 40-hour work week for full-time staff, up from 37 hours, which gave employees more flexibility and a wage hike of 8%; a weekend off every three weeks (instead of every four weeks) for full-timers; a sizable improvement in benefits plus a pension increase; and the launch of a paid sick-day program for part-timers.