Sobeys BC labour dispute looms in wake of store closures

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1518 in BC is urging members to vote no to recommendations from ongoing negotiations with Sobeys. Workers could reject the recommendations in a province-wide vote this week.

In January, Sobeys closed 10 Safeway stores in BC and at the time suggested it could reopen five of them if it received concessions in a new collective agreement. Negotiations have been stalled since March.

According to the union, 4,000 jobs are at risk if no agreement is reached between workers and Sobeys.

"We have been at a deadlock from the beginning of negotiations. It was truly our hope with the appointment of the Special Officer that we would see some real movement to a resolution through mediation which is yet to happen," stated Ivan Limpright, president of the UFWC Local 1518.

Cynthia Thompson, vice president, communications and corporate affairs with Sobeys, says the company has accepted the Special Officer’s recommendations “because they establish a process of negotiation and dispute resolution that will result in agreements between our company and UFCW 1518.”

She adds that “it’s interesting that the UFCW 1518 bargaining committee rejected Special Officer Vince Ready’s recommendations to resolve the ongoing bargaining dispute. It was, in fact, UFCW 1518 that asked the Minister of Labour to appoint the Special Officer in the first place. 

“These agreements will be fair to employees and they will also allow us to compete in a changing marketplace. The grocery industry is changing significantly in BC, as it is everywhere else, and dealing responsibly with industry changes is the only way to achieve a thriving and sustainable grocery business that can provide good jobs for current and future employees. That has been our goal from the start of negotiations.

"It is in everyone’s best interest to get all issues resolved as quickly as possible. Good faith participation in the process proposed by the Special Officer is the best way to get this accomplished and we are committed to working with Mr. Ready on next steps.”

 

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