A recently settled strike against fellow grocer Metro Inc. in Ontario may have stirred workers to action against Loblaw Cos. in Manitoba.
Winnipeg-based United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 832 said Monday that its members working at Loblaw Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills and Extra Foods grocery stores in Manitoba have voted for a strike mandate. More than 97% of the nearly 4,000 workers voted in favor of the strike authorization, according to the union, which said the overwhelming support for the action shows Loblaw that that its members are “serious about getting a fair offer and recognition for their efforts.”
Brampton, Ontario-based Loblaw, Canada’s largest food and drug retailer, couldn’t immediately be reached by Winsight Grocery Business for comment.
Collective bargaining for a new contract has been under way since June, according to UFCW Local 832. Most recently, the union said it returned to the bargaining table on Aug. 28 and expects negotiations to continue through the current contract’s expiration date on Sept. 28.
The local’s bargaining committee includes 16 Loblaw-employed members from various departments and stores across Manitoba as well as five staff members from the union. UFCW Local 832 said the group has been working with Loblaw members since February to gather feedback and ideas to improve their contract, which were brought to talks in June.
“During the pandemic, these workers were deservingly treated like heroes, but since then morale and working conditions have dropped,” Jeff Traeger, UFCW 832 president and lead negotiator, said in a statement “They’ve seen the headlines about Loblaw’s record profits and [CEO and Executive Chairman] Galen Weston’s compensation package, and now they need to see an offer that recognizes the important role they’ve played in boosting the company’s success.”
UFCW Local 832’s strike mandate announcement comes less than a week after 27 Metro supermarkets in greater Toronto reopened for business after a 32-day work stoppage by 3,700 grocery workers represented by Unifor Local 414.
The contract ratification vote, just ahead of Canada’s Labour Day weekend, came over a day after Metro and Unifor reached a tentative agreement. Local 414 members had walked off the job on July 29 at Metro stores in 13 Toronto-area communities after voting down a tentative contract accord reached July 19. The union local had set a strike deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 17 in the event that no contract agreement was reached. Weeks earlier, on June 20, union members had voted unanimously to authorize a strike against Metro, nearly a week before bargaining was scheduled to begin.
Unifor said Local 414’s new contract brought wage hikes and improved pension and other benefits for both full- and part-time employees. That includes a “front-loaded” wage increase of $1.50 per hour for full- and part-time associates plus a $2-per-hour gain “within months” for full-time and senior part-time staff. The $2 hourly hike was deemed as compensation for Metro’s cancellation of a $2-per-hour “hero pay” bonus after the pandemic, which was a sticking point in negotiations.