B.C. union UFCW 247 has announced it will return to the bargaining table with Loblaw’s next week.
The union represents employees at Loblaw’s Superstore and distribution centres across the province, including the Richmond location.
The announcement came after a 97 per cent strike mandate was obtained on May 18, following a 78 per cent rejection of the company’s settlement offer back in April.
“Strikes and strike votes are a last resort means of showing workers’ resolve at the bargaining table,” said the union in a news release updated on May 6.
Negotiations began last year, and the union reported in December that a number of non-monetary proposals were resolved. But monetary issues such as wage scales stalled negotiations, and the parties have been unable to agree on what union members consider a ‘fair deal.’
“A ‘fair deal’ is more than what’s there… I think there’s a general perception out there that the offer needs to be improved from the company,” said Dan Goodman, president of UFCW 247.
Goodman also thinks that employees are dissatisfied due to other factors.
“There’s just this general unhappiness out there with respect to trying to get out of this pandemic. I think members see the inflation and the cost of living going up, and these are all things that factor in,” he said.
The company’s policies could also be another factor.
“I think there’s still a lot of anger, quite frankly, on the fact that the company introduced the $2 pandemic pay early on and then took it away,” Goodman added.
Earlier this month, Loblaw's announced an increase by almost 40 per cent in its first-quarter profits compared to the same period last year.
To strike or not to strike
The strike mandate will remain valid for three months, and the union will not serve a strike notice unless negotiations completely break down.
In the event that the union decides to go ahead with a strike, they will have to serve a 72-hour notice to Loblaw’s, and affected stores will likely be shut down.
“In British Columbia, the company isn’t allowed to hire replacement workers so they can’t bring in other people (to replace) the people that are out on the picket line.
“So, our assumption would be that the stores wouldn’t be operational. They wouldn’t have enough staff to run them,” said Goodman.
But a strike is only the last resort, he added, and things might be looking up with Loblaw’s return to the bargaining table.
“I just want to reinforce with people... our goal here is not to have a dispute. It’s to come to an agreement that our members ratify… The company needs to take the strike vote seriously, and they need to come to the table willing to get something done.
“If we both go in, willing to get something done, hopefully we can,” said Goodman.