Sobeys to cut 1,300 jobs by 2017 mainly at distribution centres

The Sobeys grocery business expects to eliminate 1,300 jobs over the next year or two as it moves to open new distribution centres in Ontario and Alberta and continues to integrate Safeway Canada's operations.

Grocery chain Sobeys says it will cut roughly 1,300 jobs in 2016 and 2017 as it reorganizes its distribution centres in Ontario and Alberta and continues to integrate its recently acquired Safeway chain into its operations.

The head of Sobey's parent company told analysts on a conference call discussing the company's quarterly results that most of the jobs will not be front-line in-store staff, but rather "primarily back-office functions."

Empire Co. president and CEO Marc Poulin says some of the jobs losses will be from closing of a support centre in Milton west of Toronto after the company moves to a new automated distribution centre in nearby Vaughan in October of next year.

Other jobs will be eliminated when a support centre in Calgary is closed, once an automated distribution centre in Rocky View, Alta., comes on line in mid-2017. Sobeys acquired that facility from Target, which recently pulled out of Canada.

All in all, the job cuts will cost the company a little over $100 million.

Changes to the Sobeys distribution system are part of ongoing expansion and reorganization of the national grocery chain which is based in Stellarton, N.S.

Among other things, Sobeys is consolidating its presence in Western Canada after acquiring the Safeway chain for almost $6 billion in late 2013 and absorbing some of the Co-op Atlantic food and fuel retailing operations in a much smaller deal that closed last week.

With files from The Canadian Press

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