Alberta Superstore workers poised to strike

Dozens of people gathered at a Superstore in west Edmonton Saturday afternoon to show support for Loblaw workers facing a strike deadline.

Dozens of people gathered at a Superstore in west Edmonton Saturday afternoon to show support for Loblaw workers facing a strike deadline.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401, the workers’ union, hosted the event that they called “Fairness Day.”

"Today we decided to bring our fight with Galen Weston and Loblaw to the public. The employees have been bargaining with their employer for a year now, nearly, and not one single critical issue of theirs has been addressed," said Christine McMeckan, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 401.

UFCW Local 401 spokesperson Christine McMeckan said today's event is intended to raise public awareness of the difficult work conditions facing Albertan Superstore workers. (CBC)

McMeckan said Weston is out of touch with Alberta's needs booming needs, which leaves workers scrambling to maintain quality and safety despite slashed hours and high employee turnover.

"Typically, 14 per cent of staff in a Superstore are full time. That's it. Eighty six per cent are part-time employees that rely on that hours that do, from time to time, fluctuate. So when you slash hours of your part-time [workers] ... that's a big section of your work force that are very unhappy."

Alberta votes in favour of strike

In Alberta, 97 per cent of workers at Real Canadian Superstores and Liquor stores in Edmonton and Calgary have voted in favour of strike action, with 93 per cent across the province voting similarly, said McMeckan.

"That shows the level of desperation, frankly," she said. "Because employees don't like to go on strike, they want to go to work and want to come home at the end of the day. They want to spend time with their families. They don't want to invite this type of chaos into their world. That's how serious this issue is."

The strike deadline has been set for October 6.

Speaking for the Alberta local, Douglas O’Halloran says the it seems inevitable workers will strike.

"The company refuses to deal with the slashing of employee hours,” he said in a release.

“A lack of hours has resulted in problems with food safety and cleanliness in Alberta stores – these are real problems that Loblaw just isn’t addressing and they’re having serious impacts on Superstore and Liquorstore employees.”

Open letter to Loblaw executive

On September 26, UFCW Locals 401, 1400 and 832 representing workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba issued an open letter to Loblaw Executive Chairman Galen Weston Jr.

Union locals in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba published an open letter to Loblaw Executive Chairman Galen Weston Jr. on September 26. In it, the unions asks Weston to "do the right thing." (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

The message, which ran in almost 20 major newspapers across the country, speaks out against employee wages, slashed hours, poor store conditions and food safety issues.

“Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Loblaw employees have voted overwhelmingly to strike. No one wants to risk their jobs and forego their regular income but we simply cannot accept your approach,” the letter reads.

“We do not even feel like we are being treated as people,” it continues.

“We’ll be asking Canadians to support us by staying out of your stores.”

So far, McMeckan said public support of the worker's cause has been positive. 


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