More than 2,500 Safeway workers in Manitoba may be going on strike at the urging of their union following a break-off in contract negotiations with Sobeys West Inc.
Local president Jeff Traeger says they hope to return to the bargaining table on March 5 with an overwhelming strike mandate. The union contract expires on March 17.
Jacquelin Weatherbee, Sobeys' director of external communications, says the company is committed to working toward a deal that works for everyone.
Sobeys has 23 stores in Manitoba, including 18 in Winnipeg.
Traeger describes the negotiations as a "bad situation, stating that "it's like bargaining with a gun to your head. It's a really bad situation for our members,'' adding that he believes it's similar to what's happening to Safeway workers in British Columbia.
Last month the union said the company was closing 10 stores in that province, but if it received favourable terms and conditions for its FreshCo discount banner outlets it could open five of those in the shuttered Safeway locations.
In a CBC report, Weatherbee says it is standard practice to discuss the viability of Safeway locations at negotiation meetings.
"These are not intimidating tactics. This is what happens at the negotiation table. We sit down and describe and explain the performance that the company is seeing within each of the stores. With all that information in mind, the union and the company is able to put forward recommendations on how collective bargaining agreements can be amended."
Sources: CP Press, Winnipeg Free Press, CBC