On the Picket Line

Safeway workers in Manitoba push back concessions

By Michel Dugré
April 16, 2018

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Some 2,000 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 at Safeway in this province voted overwhelmingly March 25 to ratify a four-year agreement with Sobeys. Sobeys bought the Safeway grocery chain in western Canada five years ago.

After the vote several workers said that the 98 percent strike mandate given to the union helped push back company concessions.

Sobeys withdrew its demand for workers to go from paying nothing to paying 50 percent of premiums for health and dental benefits. There will be no reduction to night shift premium pay. But many workers were disappointed with the wage freeze in the first two years of the contract.

When negotiations began in Manitoba, Sobeys announced that it would close 10 Safeway stores in British Columbia, five of which could become FreshCo. The agreement that workers ratified says that “a new FreshCo agreement will be negotiated.”

“The main reason I came to this meeting is I wanted to know what will happen if you work in a store that becomes a FreshCo store,” said Eric Schmidt, with 25 years seniority, after voting in favor of the agreement.

“I would probably go from $21 to less than $15 an hour,” added Gaurav, who works in the meat department.

At the meeting, this reporter, who works at Walmart, gave union officials cards in solidarity with the Safeway workers signed by 20 workers at two Walmart stores in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area.