A man leaves a Loblaws store in Toronto. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Loblaw closing Laval, Ottawa distribution centres, affecting nearly 800 workers

MONTREAL — Grocery chain Loblaw Companies Ltd. has announced the closure of distribution centres in Laval, Que., and Ottawa which will result in the elimination of nearly 800 jobs.

About 545 employees north of Montreal will be affected by the end of 2021 as the distribution centre is relocated to the automated complex of an Ontario subcontractor.

The grocery chain is also shutting a warehouse in Ottawa that will impact 230 workers.

Loblaw spokeswoman Catherine Thomas said the company is committed to fairness for employees and will work with the unions to minimize the impact of the closures.

“We will begin negotiations shortly, setting transition plans and finding solutions for those colleagues — including a long, two-year wind down, and support for those who want new opportunities within Loblaw or beyond,” she wrote in an email.

The decision to relocate the distribution centre comes as a labour contract expires at the end of the month, according to a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union.

“There is never a good time to learn such news, but at least we don’t have just a few weeks’ notice,” Roxanne Larouche said in an interview. “That leaves us time.”

Thomas said volumes from Ottawa and Laval are moving to a facility in Cornwall, Ont., that’s been open for more than a decade. The automated distribution centre will expand to be among Canada’s most modern distribution centres and an undisclosed number of workers will be added to handle the greater volumes.

“Our customers expect us to be a modern retailer, and we continue to invest in our stores and our people to do just that. In 2020, we will invest more than $1 billion to improve our business, creating new jobs and modernizing our workforce and stores,” said Thomas.

The owner of Loblaw, Provigo, Maxi and Shoppers Drug Mart (Pharmaprix in Quebec), will continue to distribute fresh and frozen food from Boucherville, a suburb south of Montreal, where some 550 people work.

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