Superstore, Liquorstore workers return after ratifying new contract
Unionized employees at Real Canadian Superstore and Liquorstore outlets across Alberta were back at work on Wednesday after voting to ratify a new contract the day before.
About 8,500 workers, including approximately 300 in Red Deer, had gone out on legal strike Sunday after rejecting an earlier offer from Loblaw Companies Ltd. Representatives of the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 continued to negotiate, and reached a tentative agreement at about 4 a.m. Monday morning.
The results of a union member vote on the proposed deal were confirmed at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Employees from Calgary- and Edmonton-area stores who cast ballots voted 83 per cent and 85 per cent respectively in favour of the terms, while Superstore staff from the rest of the province who voted came out 91 per cent in favour.
The new contract will run for the next five years, and apply retroactively to August 2012, when the previous agreement expired.
“People were quite happy with what they were able to achieve in such a short period of time on a picket line,” said Christine McMeckan, a communication representative with the UFCW.
In the case of wages, she said, every employee will receive an increase in every year of the contract.
“The pay increases are higher than what was originally offered and it amounts to, between wages and retroactive pay, (as much as) $4 over the course of the contract, per hour per employee.”
The contract also includes sick pay for part-time workers, and improves company funding for part-time employee benefits like prescription costs and eyeglasses, said McMeckan.
She added that an important change is the addition of new provisions limiting the work that managers and product suppliers can do in the store.
“The focus was really around availability of hours, because the vast majority of their staff are part time,” said McMeckan, adding that full-time jobs are also being increased.
“So we feel our goals have been met, largely.”
McMeckan believes the short duration of the strike, with the first workers back on the job late Tuesday night, will minimize its impact on business.
“The longer a strike goes on, the more stigma becomes attached to an employer.
“It would have been nice if we could have avoided a strike altogether and bargained this agreement before that happened, but I think in the end (Loblaw) deserves credit for making the right choice to end this quickly and address the employees’ concerns.”
A Loblaw spokesperson who was asked about the settlement did not immediately reply.