Dominion workers strike after tentative deal rejected

Dominion employs more than 1,400 workers at 11 locations across the province.

Dominion employs more than 1,400 workers at 11 locations across the province

More than 1400 Dominion workers across the province began their strike at 10:01 p.m. after rejecting the latest contract offer from parent company Loblaw. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Workers at Dominion grocery stores across the province are on the picket line after they overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offered by parent company Loblaw.

Workers have been without a contract since October 2019 and were prepared to strike as early as July 31. The initial strike was avoided just hours before the July 31 deadline when a tentative deal was reached.

Members of Unifor Local 597, which represents Dominion workers, voted overwhelmingly to reject the contract offer made by Loblaw, and began strike action at 10:01 p.m. Saturday night.

Make a call, we are ready.- Carolyn Wrice

In a news release, Unifor president Jerry Dias said the contract made gains in some areas, but the monetary offer fell short, leading to a strike.

Unifor Local 597 president Carolyn Wrice said they are calling for more full-time jobs as more than 80 per cent of the workers are part time. In 2019, 60 full-time jobs were converted into part-time positions.

Carolyn Wrice is the president of Unifor Local 597. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"Fair wages, good benefits, full-time jobs. They need stability," Wrice told reporters standing in an empty parking lot outside a Dominion store in Mount Pearl.

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"The members want to show their employer that they mean business. They want a good collective agreement."

The call for a strike began in June after Dominion's parent company, Loblaw Companies Limited, ended a $2-an-hour wage increase for essential workers during the pandemic. 

Wrice said when COVID-19 started the company vocalized their appreciation for their employees during a difficult time but said it doesn't feel like that now. 

"The majority of our workers are barely making over minimum wage. We have a lot of single parents that are trying to raise families, it's hard to do," she said.

There are about 1,400 members and workers are striking at 11 locations across the province.

In a statement, Unifor said the pharmacies in the Dominions will remain open. 

"Picketers will not prevent customers from getting their prescriptions and … medical staff will be allowed access at locations that have health clinics," reads the statement.

As for when the employees will go back to work, Wrice said that's up to the employer. 

"Make a call. We are ready. We are ready to sit back at the table."

In an emailed statement Sunday, a spokesperson for Loblaw said the company believes the tentative agreement they had with the union was fair and addressed important issues.

"We are disappointed that this agreement was not accepted by our colleagues, despite being recommended by their union," the statement read.  

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With files from Heather Gillis