On the Picket Line

Newfoundland grocery workers strike for full-time jobs, wages

By Beverly Bernardo
September 7, 2020

MONTREAL — Some 1,400 unionized grocery workers at 11 Dominion stores across the Canadian province of Newfoundland went on strike Aug. 22. The members of Unifor Local 597 set up pickets at stores from St. John’s to Stephenville. They’ve been without a contract since October 2019.

Workers want reinstated the full-time jobs that were lost in 2019 as 60 full-time positions were eliminated in the company’s Newfoundland stores. Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice told the media Aug. 23 that more than 80% of workers are part time, with low pay, limited access to benefits, and haven’t received a raise since the spring of 2018.

Workers began calling for a strike  in June — in the middle of contract talks — when Dominion’s parent company, Loblaw Companies Limited, ended a 2 Canadian dollar-an-hour wage increase ($1.52) for “essential workers” during the coronavirus pandemic. “The majority of our workers are barely making over minimum wage,” Wrice told CBC News. “We have a lot of single parents who are trying to raise families. It’s hard to do,” she added.

The company’s latest proposal, which workers rejected July 31, offered to restore only half of the CA$2 increase over the life of a three-year contract.

The strikers are starting to receive support from fellow workers. “We completely understand what you are going through and hope that you keep up the fight,” said a message sent by Nain Martinez, who works at the West Kelowna Walmart in British Columbia. “Retail stores across the country have united in order to defend their acts of injustice and take away our pandemic pay. Now it is our turn to stand together and support each other in this time of crisis.”