Empire Company Ltd. has reacted positively to a key labour decision by a Special Officer appointed by the provincial government.
The decision allows the company to offer voluntary buyouts to eligible long-service employees of Empire’s Safeway stores in B.C.
The decision is critical for the company, which is seeking to improve the profitability of its Safeway stores and to enable them to compete on a level playing field in the province, the company says. Empire says the decision also advances its plans to expand the FreshCo brand into Western Canada.
"We are in the midst of turning around our Western Canadian stores,” said Empire president and CEO Michael Medline. “We have improved our standards, execution and marketing. We are extremely proud of the progress our teammates in the region are making. This decision in B.C. is a major building block in improving our customer service, employee relations, profitability and flexibility in the West."
The buyouts will give Empire the flexibility and stability to manage labour and operational costs in B.C., the company says. Empire estimates the cost of the buyouts will be approximately $35 million depending on take-up of the offer by employees. The buyouts will be charged to operating earnings during the third quarter of fiscal 2019.
The union representing workers in the affected locations has appealed certain elements of the decision, but Empire says it “intends to move forward and implement the decision.”