The union that represents thousands of grocery store workers in Ontario says 17 No Frills stores across the province could be on strike as early as Monday unless the company steps up with improved compensation and working conditions.
Unifor, which represents more than 1,200 workers at No Frills stores across the province, says its members could be on strike as soon as Monday morning if the company doesn’t meet their demands for better pay and other improvements.
The previous labour agreement expired last month.
“Loblaw must come to the table prepared to raise wages, improve working conditions, and create more full-time jobs for these grocery store workers,” Unifor national president Lana Payne said in a statement. “They deserve decent work and pay. It’s as simple as that.”
Not all of the roughtly 175 No Frills locations across Ontario would be impacted by the strike, just the 17 locations represented by Unifor. The 17 stores are all in south of the province, ranging from Aylmer to Renfrew, with most locations clustered in or near Toronto.
The move comes after workers at Loblaws rival Metro, also represented by Unifor, striked for about a month this summer before striking a deal that saw all workers get at least a $1.50-an-hour wage increase and other concessions.
The Metro contract, which was recently ratified, also came with improvements to pension plans, scheduling and other issues. In its quarterly earnings this week, Metro revealed that the strike cost it $27 million.
Larry Savage, a professor in the labour studies department at Brock University, said the Metro deal was “a huge test for the union and the deal they secured now serves as an target for the entire industry.
“I think that should send a very clear signal to No Frills that the union is not going to roll over.”
The Metro agreement is now an industry-leading contract, said Savage.
“You can bet that other grocery store workers will want the same or better.”
According to Unifor, six per cent of the workers across the stores are full-time. The rest are part-time, with a quarter being students.
The average hourly wage for the full-time workers is $19.89, while the average hourly wage for the part-time workers, excluding the students, is $16.95, according to Unifor. The average hourly wage for the students is $15.92.
In Ontario, the minimum wage for students under the age of 18 who work less than a certain number of hours per week is $15.60, compared with the general minimum wage of $16.55.
Loblaws says it is not involved in the negotiations, because the talks are “between No Frills franchisees and their employees.”
Ryan Barrett, the owner of a No Frills franchise in Aylmer, Ont., who represents the owner bargaining committee, said, “We are at the table with the union, and our goal is to reach an agreement.”
The strike news comes as Loblaw Cos Ltd., which owns Loblaws, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart and other chains, revealed its own quarterly results this week — numbers that show its sales and profits keep increasing.
Revenue at the parent company’s grocery brands increased by 4.5 per cent, and the company specified that sales at discount food stores such as No Frills fared especially well, as they “benefited from increased traffic from customers seeking quality and value from its private label brands.”
Overall, the company’s revenues rose by five per cent to just over $18 billion while profit rose by almost 12 per cent to $621 million.