Safeway to close 3 strike-bound Thunder Bay stores; 481 jobs lost

Canada Safeway has announced the permanent closure of three strike-bound stores in Thunder Bay, throwing 481 people out of work.

Workers at the three stores have been on strike since October 1 last year. A government-supervised vote on the company's final offer was narrowly rejected on May 7. Safeway said it requested a second vote, but said the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union would not agree.

"Safeway is disappointed that no immediate resolution of our request for a second government conducted vote could be achieved," Canada Safeway president Chuck Mulvenna said in a release.

"We believe that many of our employees were deprived of the ability to freely express their true wishes in the first vote, but waiting an additional indeterminate number of months for a formal hearing and resolution to this issue would only add to the already substantial economic impact of the strike on our company," he said.

Safeway had claimed some union members were intimidated into voting against the offer.

UFCW chief negotiator John Fuller said Safeway made it clear throughout the negotiations and the long strike that it had "no interest in achieving a fair new collective agreement."

The union said it has already contacted other retail food operators about purchasing the stores and re-employing the workers.

Canada Safeway is western Canada's largest grocery retailer, with 210 stores.