The union representing more than 500 workers at the Loblaws distribution centre in Calgary said its members were served a layoff notice on Monday.
In a news release sent out by Teamsters Local Union 987 of Alberta (Teamsters 987), it said more than 527 of the 534 members at the centre were served the notices that are effective as of this week.
Some junior employees have already been laid-off, according to John Taylor, spokesperson for Teamsters 987.
Members are bargaining for a wage increase as part of their collective agreement. The news release mentions its members are “earning less than the acceptable living wage for Calgary of $22.40, but they are also now facing layoffs just ahead of the holiday season.”
The union has been in talks with Loblaws since its current agreement expired on June 6. Teamsters 987 members rejected the employer’s offer on Nov. 3, along with rejecting the same offer on November 15, which was a Labour Board supervised proposal vote.
“These members are dedicated to helping Loblaw move product to its many stores across Western Canada,” said Taylor.
“As they negotiate for higher wages and a better quality of life, they are facing unnecessary layoffs, all while Loblaws profits continue to soar. We believe that having time with family are basic rights that our members deserve.
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“The money that they offered, I’m not going to sit here and say it wasn’t — it was a handsome financial offer, from the most successful grocery company in the country by a long shot. But be that as it may, the biggest reason for the rejection was the standard of life.”
Talks of a possible lockout will also affect deliveries and grocery supply in stores.
“Obviously it will complicate things… it will slow things down,” said distribution expert Sylvain Charlebois.
He believes Loblaw will find a way to replenish the stores, and while customers may see a few spaces here or there, we shouldn’t expect anything “dramatic.”
“My assumption is (Loblaw is) already talking to transportation companies, carriers to bypass the centre and so instead of doing the sorting at the centre, they’ll be doing the sorting at the store level.
“Access is probably the biggest concern that I would have — not necessarily prices, as grocers are being very careful right now not to be seen as ‘gougers’ because everyone is looking at prices right now,” said Charlebois.
Simon Black, an associate professor of labour studies at Brock University, says while wage increases are important to workers at a time of high inflation, there’s also an increased focus on working conditions in negotiations, such as scheduling, time off and breaks.
With the continued tight labour market, unionized workers are trying to seize on a moment in which they could make real gains in bargaining, says Black.
So far in 2022, tensions in bargaining by Canadian workers have been at heightened levels, with the average length of work stoppages more than double last year.
Global News reached out to Loblaws for comment, but have yet to receive a response.
— With files from Tomasia DaSilva, Global News