Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. Dominion workers reach agreement ending 12-week strike

Dominion workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have reached a new collective agreement with parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd., ending a 12-week long strike at 11 stores across the province.

1,400 workers have been on strike since Aug. 22; Loblaw's final offer delivered on Saturday past

Striking Dominion workers across the province voted on the newest deal offered by parent company Loblaw throughout the week. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

Dominion workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have reached a new collective agreement with parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd., ending a 12-week long strike at 11 stores across the province.

In a press release shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said N.L. workers struck "to draw attention to a business model in Canadian retail that fails workers."

"While improvements were obtained we know there is still more work to do at Dominion and the other grocery giants in this country to address wages and precarious work, and Unifor will persevere in that effort."

The union said the new four-year contract is backdated to October 2019, and covers more than 1,400 Unifor Local 597 members at 11 Dominion locations in Newfoundland.

Those employees had been on strike since Aug. 22, after Loblaw ended a $2-an-hour wage increase for essential workers implemented during the pandemic.

Those on the picket line also called for more full-time jobs and wage increases.

Unifor, who represents Dominion workers, said more than 80 per cent of Dominion workers are part time. The union also said 60 full-time jobs were converted into part-time positions last year.

The offer by Loblaw was included in a letter to members of the union, a copy of which was obtained by CBC News. It includes pay increases starting at 35 cents an hour and going up to an extra $1.35 an hour by the end of the four-year contract. Also an assurance of 22 new full-time jobs. 

"Current full-time colleagues who were impacted by the redundancies last year will have the first opportunity to apply for the new full-time roles when they are posted," the document reads. "For each of the colleagues who fill a new full-time position, another full-time position will be posted to ensure there is a net increase of 22 new full-time roles."

The new deal also includes a signing bonus — a PC gift card for employees, valued between $50 and $500, depending on their status and years worked for the company.

"Our members took a stand to improve working conditions in Canada's retail sector and we will continue in the challenge to raise the bar for workers," said Carolyn Wrice, president of Unifor Local 597, in the media release.

About 1,400 striking Dominion workers had been on strike since August. (Unifor/Twitter)

Friday's vote came a day after Loblaw recorded an almost seven per cent increase in profits in the third quarter of 2020, with Loblaw president Sarah Davis saying the company "continued with its 2020 winning streak."

Revenue for the 16-week period ending Oct. 3 totalled $15.67 billion, up from nearly $14.66 billion in the same quarter a year earlier.

Loblaw's final offer to workers came on Saturday through provincially appointed mediator Wayne Fowler.

That offer came after several weeks away from the bargaining table — where union negotiator Chris McDonald said Loblaw made no significant improvement to their original offer.

Workers had been voting on ratification of the latest offer throughout the week, with the final meeting happening Friday in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Meanwhile, Unifor is also continuing its lawsuit against the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary over police response to a picket line at Weston Bakery in Mount Pearl on Oct. 27.

Kyle Rees, a lawyer representing Unifor, told CBC Radio's On The Go last week that no further injunctions have been made against where striking workers can protest, after Loblaw secured an injunction to prohibit picket lines at the company's Mount Pearl distribution centre in October. 

The matter is due back in court on Monday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Canadian Press