Employees at the Red Deer Superstore joined 8,500 workers across the province and picketed outside of their stores.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, who represent Superstore employees gave strike notice to their employer, Loblaw, on Sept. 26.
David Smith, picket captain, was registering members for the picket early Sunday morning in the Red Deer Superstore parking lot.
“Nobody wants a strike, the members didn’t want it to come to this and I don’t think the company really wanted this either,” said Smith. “But they stonewalled at bargaining for almost a year and waited until the last minute to try to put together a deal.”
He said the mood has been good among workers at the picket.
Central to the issue for the employees are hours, and some workers are afraid their hours may be cut significantly under a new deal.
“Sadly, it’s where we’ve expected to be based on the company,” said Christine McMeckan, UFCW Local 401 communication representative.
“Superstore is still not meeting the needs of its workers and addressing the critical hours issue and so we had no choice but to go on strike.”
Late last week, the Alberta Federation of Labour said it is actively encouraging its members not to shop at Superstore until a fair agreement has been reached.
“We’re very hopeful the public will understand,” said McMeckan. “Superstore employees know this is going to be an inconvenience for the public. Customers understand, they know how badly retail workers are often treated and Superstore workers are no exception.”
In an email, Julija Hunter, Loblaw vice-president of public relations, said the company feels they are making progress at the bargaining table and continue to bargain in good faith.
“We are hopeful of reaching a settlement in the near future that reflects a sustainable business model needed to support our colleagues and serve our customers,” said the email.
Hunter said Superstore locations will remain open and they regret this situation has caused our customers and want to assure everyone that their colleagues are committed to excellent customer service during this time.
“We respect the union’s right to demonstrate and we hope they are respectful and peaceful in their approach.”
McMeckan said the two sides were bargaining today. Hunter said Loblaw has reached tentative agreements with UFCW locals in Saskatchewan on Sept. 26 and in Manitoba on Oct. 3.