Dominion workers 'feeling disappointed' with deal with Loblaw, Unifor says

·3 min read
Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

The union representing Dominion workers says Friday evening was a disappointing ending to a 12-week-long strike, after members signed off on a new collective agreement with parent company Loblaw Companies Ltd.

Chris MacDonald, assistant to Unifor national president Jerry Dias, led negotiations on behalf of the union and said workers reluctantly accepted the offer from Loblaw.

"Our members are feeling disappointed. This is not the deal that they wanted and this isn't the reason why they went on strike," MacDonald told CBC News on Saturday.

"Ultimately, they had an employer who refused to budge and gave them a final offer, essentially threatening many more months back on the picket line, without moving on their offer."

About 1,400 workers went on strike in late August calling for more full-time jobs and a wage increase, after Loblaw ended a $2 an hour raise for essential workers implemented during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the end, the ratified deal was similar to the offer Loblaw tabled ahead of the strike, but an extra year was added, bringing the total wage increase to $1.35 an hour over four years, not the $2 an hour workers wanted.

"There were some minor improvements in the agreement and some things that will help our members, but ultimately the employer refused to bargain and that's where we landed," MacDonald said.

The union's bargaining committee didn't see a path forward, MacDonald said, after receiving word from provincial mediator Wayne Fowler that it didn't matter to Loblaw if the offer was accepted on Friday or six months from then.

"Ultimately, members decided they were ready to go back to work," he said.

Gary Quigley/CBC
Gary Quigley/CBC

But members did move forward in their demand for more full-time jobs.

In total, 22 jobs will be added, with full-time workers who were impacted last year having the first chance to apply for the new roles once they are posted. As workers 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.

MacDonald said the company is also required to maintain a minimum of 20 per cent full-time employees, but he added it's still not enough.

"Right now, the level of employment is around 16 per cent full-time. So they're going to have to add some full-time jobs and not go below the floor of 20 per cent," he said. "That's a significant stop gap that we've put in there to protect the further erosion of full-time jobs."

"There are some improvements in the agreement that workers can look forward to, but ultimately the taste in their mouth right now is a little bit sour and the things we didn't achieve are being highlighted more than what we did."

MacDonald said some members returned to work on Saturday, while others are waiting for their schedules to be posted. He said stores should be operational again by late next week.

Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs for Loblaw Atlantic, told CBC News on Saturday the company is not doing interviews, but did issue a statement.

"We cannot wait to get our colleagues and customers back in the stores. We struck a fair balance, with a deal that includes details that were important to our people and to the success of our business," the statement read.

"Our goal is to have the stores open by the end of next week."

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