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The local union president, Carolyn Wrice, said the Loblaw proposal addressed some employee concerns, so the bargaining committee opted to put it to a vote. But members “overwhelmingly” rejected it, according to Unifor.
Wrice said Loblaw’s proposed wage increase — a total of about $1 an hour accumulating over the course of a three-year agreement, according to Unifor — fell short of expectations, especially since it came in well below the extra $2 an hour that staff were receiving as pandemic-related bonuses.
Loblaw declined to comment on the details of the proposed Dominion agreement.
“That (extra $2) was a lot to these people. That let people get extra groceries, it helped them pay an extra bill they couldn’t pay,” Wrice said, adding that 80 per cent of her members are part-time workers, many of them single parents who earn minimum wage, which is $11.65 in the province. “Now they’re back to square one … How would that make you feel?”
Unifor is also currently in negotiations with Loblaw on behalf of employees at a warehouse in New Brunswick, and more negotiations are scheduled for employees at Metro-owned Food Basics in Ontario.
“It’s come to a head already in Newfoundland and it’s going to continue,” Dias said. “There’s a lot of momentum. There’s a lot of support for grocery store workers. I would argue more so today than in the past.”
Teamsters Canada, which represents between 2,000 and 3,000 grocery workers in the country, also suggested that the cancelled pay bonuses will cause more “friction” between unions and supermarket chains as collective agreements for local bargaining units start to come up for renegotiation.
“There will be some very difficult negotiations coming up with grocery stores across the country,” Teamsters spokesperson Christopher Monette said. “Labour relations will be far more strained than they were before the pandemic because pandemic pay was taken away in such a bizarre and sudden manner.”