Nfld. & Labrador

Dominion workers avoid strike, make tentative last-minute deal with Loblaws

In the final hours before unionized workers at Dominion grocery stores were set to walk off the job, their union reached a tentative agreement with Loblaw Companies Limited.

Strike was set for 12:01 a.m. Friday

Carolyn Wrice is the president of Unifor Local 597. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Just hours before Friday's 12:01 a.m. deadline to walk off the job, the union representing Dominion workers said it has reached a possible deal with Loblaw Companies Limited, narrowly avoiding a strike involving its grocery stores across the province.

In a press release sent shortly after midnight, union Unifor said it has reached a tentative collective agreement with Loblaw, Dominion's parent company.

"There was a deadline of 12:01 a.m. last night, and we extended that a little bit," said Carolyn Wrice, head of Unifor Local 597, on Friday afternoon. "We gave Loblaws, the company, the employer, the opportunity to do good for its people."

"It was very close, very close, but you know, in bargaining you always don't get everything you wish for. But we came to some kind of agreement." 

Unifor Local 597 members will vote on the deal in coming days. (Gary Quigley/CBC)

Unifor is not releasing any details of the contract until it is ratified by its workers at Local 597, who staff 11 Dominion grocery stores across Newfoundland and Labrador, totalling about 1,400 people.

Workers are set to vote on the deal in the coming days, and Wrice said union staff would travel around the province to present details.

"It's the normal issues that every person who works for any employer want," Wrice said. "They want to be treated to be treated with respect and to be represented.… they want full-time jobs, fair wages."

On July 24, 94 per cent of the workers in Unifor Local 597 voted to strike. The relationship between the union and Loblaw had been strained before the pandemic, with the company converting 60 full-time jobs into part-time ones in 2019.

Wrice said that move was a "major issue" during the negotiations.

The workers have also been without a contract since the last one expired in November 2019.

Loblaw bumped up its workers' pay by $2 an hour at the beginning of the pandemic, a move it retracted in June, with the local's president slamming the move at the time.

"Our employees stayed to work during COVID, they are dedicated to the people of our province," she said.

A spokesperson for Loblaw did not respond to questions from CBC News.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Garrett Barry

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