Three United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union locals in Western Canada—in the wake of strike mandates—have ratified new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with Loblaw Cos. and Sobeys Inc., Canada’s two largest grocers.
UFCW Local 832 on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new five-year contract with Loblaw. The union said the deal covers about 3,500 Real Superstore workers in Manitoba.
Winnipeg, Manitoba-based UFCW Local 832 , based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, noted that the new CBA brings the highest-percentage wage increases that the union has negotiated in a retail contract in 25 years. The pact also includes “substantial changes” to scheduling that will make it easier for part-time employees to get more hours and for all members at Real Superstore to achieve a better work/life balance, the union said.
On Sept. 11, 97% of Local 832 members had voted to authorize a strike before union leaders entered their latest round of contract talks with Loblaw. The local said the work stoppage mandate “changed the tone of ongoing negotiations” and paved the way for improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions that led to a tentative contract agreement with the grocery retailer on Sept. 28, when the existing contract had expired.
“We could not have achieved this contract without the strong strike vote and support that Superstore members gave to their co-workers on our bargaining committee,” UFCW local 832 President and lead negotiator Jeff Traeger said in a statement. “This bargaining committee worked long days and late nights to ensure we had significant improvements for all [Real] Superstore workers.”
Next up, Local 832 is preparing for negotiations for another 500 Loblaw grocery employees, at No Frills and Extra Foods stores in Manitoba.
Deal with Sobeys gets union OK
On Friday, UFCW Local 1518 ratified what it called an “historic” new contract with Sobeys for some 3,000 workers at Safeway supermarkets and FreshCo in-store pharmacies in British Columbia.
Headlining the list of gains from the new CBA with Sobeys are the addition of 300 full-time jobs plus the highest top-rate wage hikes in 25 years with retro pay, New Westminster, British Columbia-based UFCW Local 1518 said.
Other highlights include an improved wage scale, with “no one frozen at minimum wage”; voluntary severance; a night work premium of another $2 per hour on top of wage increases; no wage cap on Starbucks/coffee bar employees; “significant” wage improvements for pharmacy; vacation bridging for many employees, to capture up to seven weeks of vacation; and greater mobility through postings in stores around the province, the union reported.
On Sept. 14, 98% of Local 1518 members had voted in favor of a strike mandate if no contract agreement with Sobeys emerged in their next round of talks. However, a tentative deal was reached on Sept. 28. The union said the grocer initially offered wage increases as low as less than 1% and demanded several concessions from workers.
“Workers at Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy stood up together and demanded better from their employer by delivering a 98% strike vote that empowered our committee to make significant gains for workers at the bargaining table,” UFCW Local 1518 President Kim Novak stated. “This agreement is significant because it not only provides the highest wage increases in decades, it offers workers a pathway to more full-time jobs, a much-improved wage scale and more flexibility in what their schedules look like.”
Also on Friday, Surrey, British Columbia-based UFCW Local 247—representing Safeway deli, meat and seafood department workers—said 70% of members ratified a new CBA with Sobeys. The union also said the deal brings its highest top-rate wage gains in 25 years—12% by June 2026—plus improved wage scales, 90 new full-time jobs, voluntary severance, improved vacation time and mobility, and no concessions to pension and health benefits, among other items.
Local 247 also had preauthorized a strike—with 99% of members voting in favor—on Sept. 20 before coming to a tentative contract accord on Oct. 13.
“That strong strike vote was our members' achievement, and so is this strong retail agreement that provides opportunities for all UFCW Local 247 members in the meat, deli and seafood departments over the five-year term,” according to Cathy Shannon, the union’s lead negotiator.
Added UFCW Local 247 President Dan Goodman, “Just like the strike vote that led to this agreement, there was a really large turnout and engagement of our Safeway members across the province.”
Strike authorization votes provide leverage
A recently settled strike in Ontario against Canada’s other “big three” supermarket retailer, Metro Inc., likely helped set the pace for UFCW’s negotiations with Loblaw and Sobeys.
Less than a week after UFCW Local 832’s strike mandate, 27 Metro supermarkets in greater Toronto reopened for business following a 32-day work stoppage by 3,700 grocery workers represented by Unifor Local 414.
The Metro contract ratification vote 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.