Strike averted at Loblaws
TORONTO (CP) — After weeks of “round-the-clock” negotiations, Loblaws Co. Ltd. reached a tentative deal with the union representing its 27,000 Ontario employees late Friday, averting a strike that would have paralyzed its stores ahead of the Thanksgiving Day long weekend.
The terms of the collective agreement were kept under wraps, but the United Food and Commercial Workers union was unanimously recommending the deal to its members for ratification.
“This is a good collective agreement for our members reflecting all the dynamics that have been involved in these negotiations,” said Wayne Hanley, national director of UFCW Canada, in a joint statement with other union officials. “Ratification meetings are in the process of being scheduled over the coming days.”
Workers at the company’s 144 Ontario stores, including Loblaws, Zehrs, Real Canadian Superstore and Fortinos, have technically been in a legal strike position since midnight Friday after delivering a resounding strike mandate of 95 per cent earlier this week.
“While our members at Fortinos are currently covered under a contract not set to expire until 2007, a tentative agreement for those members has also been achieved in this set of negotiations,” Hanley added.
The contract talks, already spanning 18 months, have been “difficult and complex,” added UFCW spokesperson Michael Forman, who anticipated the ratification meetings could be wrapped up by Oct. 15.
The negotiations have reportedly centred on the company’s push for wage cuts as it prepares for the expected onslaught of competition from WalMart supercentres in Ontario later this year. Loblaw spokesperson Geoff Wilson declined further comment Friday.
The Toronto-based supermarket giant is one of the largest private-sector employers in Canada, employing more than 135,000 full-time and part-time employees across the country.
The company, however, has struggled with declining profitability amid its delayed supply-chain restructuring program, while also absorbing a slew of key management changes in recent weeks.