Superstore workers prepare for strike

Employees of the Real Canadian Superstore are a step closer to walking off the job on Oct. 6 after their union served Loblaw Companies Ltd. with strike notice.

Employees of the Real Canadian Superstore are a step closer to walking off the job on Oct. 6 after their union served Loblaw Companies Ltd. with strike notice.

Christine McMeckan, a communication representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said late Friday that the move came after Loblaw presented an offer to its approximately 8,500 Superstore and Real Canadian Liquorstore employees in Alberta.

“It was dismal,” said McMeckan, adding that the offer proposes wage rollbacks and doesn’t address union concerns about a lack of hours for workers.

The company also did not respond to a union demand for sick pay for its members. Currently, said McMeckan, Superstore employees — about 86 per cent of whom work part time — face financial pressure to show up for work if they’re ill.

In August, Superstore employees in Red Deer and other Alberta cities voted in favour of strike action. McMeckan said the UFCW felt it was necessary to serve Loblaw with official notice that its members plan to walk out on Oct. 6.

“We’re hoping that the employer will come back with a different offer before then but we’re not counting on it,” she said, adding that no further negotiations are currently planned.

However, members of the UFCW 401’s three Superstore bargaining units —Calgary and area, Edmonton and area, and the rest of the province — are scheduled to vote on Loblaw’s current offer on Sept. 29 and 30.

“We would be recommending rejection of this offer and we believe that we will get that rejection,” said McMeckan. “But ultimately, that would be up to the members to decide.”

If employees do vote to reject Loblaw’s existing offer, or any further offers that the company tables before then, the resulting strike could affect all Superstore outlets in Alberta, she said.

Julija Hunter, vice-president of public relations with Loblaw, told the Advocate previously that her company is committed to reaching a negotiated agreement, and that she can’t comment on the specifics of those negotiations while bargaining continues.

Hunter also said that Loblaw has “contingency plans for situations that may impact our valued customers.”

There are about 300 Superstore workers in Red Deer.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com