Nfld. & Labrador

Striking Dominion workers form 'solidarity chain' outside No Frills store

The independently owned and operated store in St. John's is part of a chain owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd., and Dominion workers, who have been on strike since Aug. 22, have formed a giant circle around the parking lot.

Store is open, and Dominion workers not blocking entrance

Unifor's Sharon Walsh says the secondary picket line formed is to draw attention to a strike that has dragged on for seven weeks and counting. (John Pike/CBC)

Striking Dominion workers have formed what the union calls a "solidarity chain" at a No Frills location in St. John's, an independently owned and operated franchise of a chain owned by Loblaw Companies Limited. 

Dozens of workers, standing six feet apart, are holding a yellow rope encircling the parking lot of the store on Topsail Road.

The store — which, along with Shoppers Drug Mart locations, sells Loblaw products — is open for customers, and the entrance is not blocked by the striking Unifor members, but the union is asking people to buy their groceries elsewhere in a show of solidarity. 

Sharon Walsh, an executive with Unifor, said the action is fair and legal, calling it a "secondary picket line."

She said it's necessary to bring attention to the seven-week strike. 

"These folks are hurting, they're hurting financially and we are doing what needs to be done to say to Loblaws, 'You need to get back to the table, you need to offer more than you've offered so far,'" she told CBC's Anthony Germain. 

Dominion employees form a circle around the parking lot of the No Frills Store Thursday morning on Topsail Road. The store sells Loblaw products. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The employees are handing out a flyer, listing the changes they are seeking from Loblaw. 

Tracey Murphy, a pharmacist's assistant at the Dominion in Bay Roberts, came into St. John's to attend Thursday's event. 

"We are all one … we are 1,400 and we are strong," she said.

"We are not backing down until we get what we want and we are in it for the long haul."

No signs of concessions on either side

The issues that continue to be sticking points include workers who are deemed part time but who work full-time hours, along with a demand for a wage increase. 

The strike began Aug. 22. All 11 Dominion stores in the province are closed, sending 1,400 workers to the picket lines. There are also no indications an agreement is near. 

On Sept. 1, Loblaw's Atlantic Canada vice-president, Mike Doucette, laid out the company's side, in a blunt, two-page letter. 

"You need to know that this strike will not result in an improved offer," Doucette wrote.

He also laid out the company's side for why it won't meet worker's demands: competition is fierce, business at Dominions across Newfoundland is in decline, and the tentative agreement reached at the end of July was still on the table.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Anthony Germain

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