About 325 workers at a Zellers warehouse in Toronto went on strike Thursday after rejecting a proposal from the company that included demands for wage and benefit concessions.
The Canadian Auto Workers union, representing the workers, said the company proposed a wage cut of $8 an hour for the distribution centre's material handlers.
"The people classified as material handlers, they make over $23 an hour. They want 60 material handlers to be reclassified and put them in a $15-an-hour wage group, which is approximately an $8-an-hour cut for no reason. Then the other 60 will be laid off," said CAW staff representative Munir Khalid.
Khalid said the company also wants to increase the use of temporary workers, cut vacation pay and eliminate provisions allowing jobs to be posted internally first, among "many, many other concessions."
Workers were also offered a one per cent wage increase over the course of the three-year agreement, a proposal the CAW described as "absolutely unacceptable."
Dwayne Gunness, president of CAW Local 1000, said the company has refused to bend on its proposals.
"Our negotiating committee has worked very hard over the past days to settle this contract without taking strike action," Gunness stated.
"Unfortunately, the company has refused to move away from their laundry list of concessionary demands which will erode the quality of work and quality of life for our members. We simply won't accept that."
Khalid said there are no plans to head back to the bargaining table, but the union has made it clear they want continue talks.
Zellers is owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. The company did not immediately return calls for comment.
The workers' previous contract expired May 31.