Superstore workers set to strike, if deal not reached over weekend

Employees at Real Canadian Superstore outlets in Alberta could go on strike as early as Oct. 6. Superstore

CALGARY- Nearly 9,000 Alberta Superstore workers could soon go on strike, if a deal is not struck between them and Loblaws.

United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the employees, is upset that hours have been slashed, and about 80 per cent of workers are only considered part-time. Many of them depend on their hourly shifts to get by, but Superstore continues to cut back hours.

“In an economy as vibrant as Alberta’s, there is simply no excuse to shortchange the employees whose efforts make your business thrive,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, in a statement. “We understand that the retail market is competitive, but it is also profitable – especially here in booming Alberta.”

Representatives from the largest unions in the province add that Loblaws has enjoyed a ‘banner year’ and spent billions on growing their retail business.

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“We’ve come here today to send a message to Galen Westin, who’s the CEO of Superstore, and basically we want to encourage him to reach a fair agreement,” said McGowan, outside a Superstore in Edmonton on Friday afternoon, “but we also want him to know that if an agreement is not reached, that the other unions in this province, in addition to UFCW – which represents the Superstore workers directly – we want to let him know that the rest of the labour movement in this province is paying attention. We’re troubled by what the company has put on the table, and from our perspective there’s no excuse in a booming province like Alberta, for the kind of concessions and roll-backs that Mr. Westin is trying to impose on these workers.”

After negotiations reached an impasse last month, workers in both Alberta and Saskatchewan voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action. They also rejected Loblaws’ latest offer, which included wage cuts of up to 40 per cent and reductions in hours.

Loblaws says they hope to avoid that scenario.

“We want our customers and colleagues to know that we are committed to focusing on reaching a deal through negotiations—not through a strike,” said Julija Hunter, VP of public relations, in an e-mail statement to Global News. “We have a responsibility to our colleagues and to our business to make sure the collective agreement we negotiate allows us to remain competitive now and in the future.”

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If there is no agreement reached by midnight on Sunday October 6, workers plan to walk out.

“As it stands right now, more than 8,000 Superstore workers from across Alberta are on the verge of a strike,” said McGowan. “If an agreement is not reached, picket lines will go up at 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning. We’re here today to see if we can avoid that, because, as labour leaders, our first preference is always to reach an agreement rather than engage in conflict.”

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