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Halifax workers at Sobeys-owned store gain nationwide support as strike enters fifth week

WATCH: The strike at Pete's Frootique, a Sobeys-owned grocer, is gaining national momentum as it enters a fifth week. Striking workers say they aren't backing down as a "National Day of Action" is only fueling their motivation to fight for increased wages and benefits. Vanessa Wright has the details. – Dec 16, 2023

Support is growing nationwide for striking Halifax workers of Sobeys-owned Pete’s Frootique as several solidarity gatherings were held across the country on Saturday.

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According to a release from SEIU 2, the union representing Pete’s employees, supporters were stationed outside the entrances at more than a dozen Sobeys and subsidiaries across Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia for a “National Day of Action” to educate the public about the workers’ situation as their strike enters a fifth week.

Nicholas Cook, a striking Pete’s employee who was handing out information leaflets to shoppers at a Sobeys in Halifax, said the outpouring public support has been “phenomenal” — adding that it’s given him and his colleagues faith in their pleas for increased wages and benefits.

“We’ve been hearing people say they’re not going to shop here anymore until we are given a reasonable wage,” he said, defining a reasonable wage as something higher than Sobeys’ previous offer, a 20 cent per hour raise or less for at least 70 per cent of Pete’s staff.

“We’ll take this as far as we need to. Our momentum hasn’t even started to stall yet, the public support is just building us up.”

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In a social media post from the CUPE Local 3906 union based in Hamilton, Ontario, several people were seen showing support to Pete’s workers outside a FreshCo location.

“Solidarity all the way from Hamilton with workers on strike at the Sobeys-owned grocer Pete’s Frootique in Halifax,” the post read.

Members of a CUPE union in Hamilton, Ontario were out in numbers to offer support for the striking Halifax workers on Saturday. CUPE Local 3906

In a SEIU 2 release, it was stated that Pete’s Frootique pays staff the provincial minimum wage of $15 per hour. Following the most recent bargaining sessions, it was said that Sobeys, its parent company, “would provide most employees with a mere five-cent per hour increase.”

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A recent study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concluded that the living wage for two adults working full-time to support two children in Halifax currently sits at $26.50 per hour.

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There are close to 100 unionized workers at the store.

As dozens of striking workers and supporters stood outside the entrance to a Halifax Sobeys on Saturday, the sounds of car horns routinely filled the air in response to signs that read “Honk if you hate corporate greed” and “More than praise, we need raise.”

A sign that reads “Honk if you hate corporate greed” is held outside a Sobeys location in Halifax on Saturday. Mitchell Bailey

Gary Burrill, MLA for the Halifax-Chebucto riding, reaffirmed his support for the striking workers by leading a parking lot performance of a song he wrote about the dispute.

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“Pete’s and Sobeys, don’t you be so cheap,” he sang as the crowd joined along. “We know you can afford it because your pockets are so deep.”

In an emailed statement to Global News on Saturday, a Sobeys spokesperson said, “We respect our teammates’ right to collectively bargain.It’s unfortunate that union leadership hasn’t focused on returning to the bargaining table to achieve a resolution for our teammates. We, however, remain prepared to negotiate with the SEIU as soon as union leadership is ready.”

Terry Armour, a picket line captain with the striking Pete’s workers, said there has been “absolutely nothing done so far to indicate” that there’s a willingness for Sobeys to negotiate with union representatives.

“The most recent communication I’m aware of from them was that (five-cent per hour offer) was that was a competitive offer and that we should take it,” he said. “They continue, as far as I can tell, to have no intention of budging on that, but we’re hoping that ratcheting up the pressure like this will bring them back to the table. We want to negotiate but just accepting the only offer they ever made is not negotiating, they need to actually negotiate with us.”

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A group of striking Pete’s Frootique workers and supporters stand outside a Sobeys on Windsor Street in Halifax. Mitchell Bailey

Armour said that all of his colleagues are eager to return to work, but “five cents an hour is obviously not enough. We’ve not received any offers. We continue to get the message from Sobeys that we were the ones who walked away from the table and who are unwilling to negotiate and that is demonstrably false.”

Despite it being five weeks since workers decided to go on strike, which caused the Pete’s Frootique location in downtown Halifax to temporarily close, Armour said moments of aligned support like Saturday’s solidarity actions help support their fight.

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“We definitely find that show of solidarity to be very encouraging for us and we hope it’s just what we need to get Sobeys to actually come back to the bargaining table with a real offer so that we can resume negotiations and get this resolved,” he said. “Because none of us want to be spending the holidays standing in parking lots … we want to be doing our jobs and spending time with our families.”


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