Unifor and Loblaw Co. return to bargaining table

Unifor and Loblaw Companies Limited have agreed to resume negotiations today in an attempt to settle the ten week strike by 1,400 Dominion grocery store workers in Newfoundland.

“We’re pleased to get back to the bargaining table. Unifor has always maintained that the only way this strike would end would be through serious negotiations between Loblaw Co. and the union,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

The two parties will meet October 29, 2020 at 10 a.m. NDT in St. John’s. Unifor will not conduct secondary pickets while talks are ongoing.

In recent weeks, the striking workers escalated pressure on the company with secondary pickets, beginning with a round the clock picket at the Loblaw distribution centre on October 20, 2020.

Following an injunction application by the company, the secondary picket location relocated to the Weston’s bakery facility in Mount Pearl on October 26, 2020. The bakery is owned by George Weston Ltd., which also operates Dominion’s parent company, Loblaw Companies Limited.

Following two days of peaceful picketing, the workers were threatened with arrest as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) descended on the peaceful picket line with tactical and riot units Tuesday night.

“It’s outrageous that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is intimidating peaceful picketers with police doing the bidding of Loblaw Companies Limited,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The only place this will be resolved is at the bargaining table.”

The RNC threatened to charge workers under the Highway Traffic Act and the Criminal Code of Canada unless the workers allowed loaded delivery trucks to cross the picket line.

“The police have no business intervening here. This is a matter between the workers and Loblaw Companies Limited,” said Unifor 597 President Carolyn Wrice.

In an early Wednesday morning Facebook live broadcast, Unifor Assistant to the National President Chris MacDonald told the workers that it was only a matter of moments before police would move in and arrest anyone in the way of the trucks.

“I’m not going to ask our members to get arrested here tonight because they’ve fought so bravely for the last number of days and unfortunately the police are moving in on us. On a peaceful demonstration, a peaceful picket line,” said MacDonald. “It’s a shame that this is what it has come to. It’s frankly astonishing.”

With the looming threat of mass arrests, the workers banded together in a show of defiance, and marched to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary station to express outrage at the interference with their right to picket.

“This will not be settled by the RNC. This will not be settled in any other way other than getting back to the bargaining table and getting a fair deal for our members,” said MacDonald. “I want to thank members for supporting us across the country in the courageous battle to get fair pay forever.”