On the Picket Line

Dominion strikers in Canada ratify pact, end 12-week strike

By Beverly Bernardo
November 30, 2020

The over 1,400 workers at Dominion grocery stores in Newfoundland, who belong to Unifor Local 597, voted to end their spirited 12-week-long strike.

Voting on what Loblaw, Dominion’s parent company, called its “final” contract proposal was conducted on the picket lines Nov. 9-13. After approving the pact, the unionists returned to work. The strike had shut down all 11 Dominion stores in the province.

Workers struck after overwhelmingly rejecting the company’s offer of a 1 Canadian dollar an hour wage increase (76 cents) over three years, after Dominion ended the CA$2 hourly wage increase it had earlier instituted as pandemic pay. Strikers fought to reverse the cut and to increase the number of full-time workers, 60 of whom had been cut by the company in 2019.

The striking workers “had an employer who refused to budge and gave them a final offer, essentially threatening many more months back on the picket line, without moving on their offer,” Chris MacDonald, Unifor’s head negotiator, told the media.  “Ultimately, members decided they were ready to go back to work.” Loblaw is the largest private employer in Canada.

The new four-year contract is backdated to October 2019. According to CBC News, the offer included pay increases starting at 35 cents an hour and going up to an extra CA$1.35 an hour by the end of the contract. On a one-time basis, any part-time clerk who has more than two, but less than three years of service and has not worked 2,001 hours will move up to minimum wage (now CA$12.15) plus 40 cents. More than half the workers at Dominion now earn the minimum wage.

Loblaw will also add 22 new full-time positions, with those who had lost their full-time jobs given priority. That means 80% of the workforce will remain part time. Workers will also receive a company gift card of between $50 and $500.

The vote totals weren’t announced. From the Local 597’s Facebook page postings, it’s clear some workers are frustrated with the result. It’s also clear they appreciated the public support they got, and look forward to future battles.