In recognition of Labour Day, Unifor members took action in support of Dominion grocery store workers, on strike at Newfoundland locations against parent company Loblaw Companies Limited.
“My message to you Loblaw is that you should be damned ashamed of yourself,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias outside Loblaws flagship grocery store in downtown Toronto. “Galen Westin’s net worth is 8.7 billion dollars. This is an employer that is eliminating full-time jobs so that they don’t have to provide benefits to their workers.”
Unifor members held information pickets at Loblaw owned locations across the country, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Windsor, Kitchener, Port Elgin, Toronto, Sydney, Saint John, Antigonish and multiple locations across Newfoundland including Grand Falls, Gander and St. John’s.
The 1,400 Newfoundland Dominion workers have been striking for fair wages and full-time jobs since Saturday August 22, 2020. At the 11 Newfoundland stores, more than 80% of the workers are classified as part-time with Dominion paying 75% of workers less than $15 an hour.
On day 17 on the picket line Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil warned that billionaire Galen Westin better start listening to his workers.
“They’re here because enough is enough. Workers are telling the employer this has to stop. Loblaw has to stop eliminating full-time jobs. They have to stop manipulating part-time hours to avoid paying pension and benefits,” MacNeil said.
Despite record profits during COVID-19 Loblaw chose to claw back pandemic pay from the frontline workers in June, in unison with competitors Metro and Empire Company.
“These are the same workers who got them through the pandemic, who came into work every single day, made sure there was food on the table, and they are the same workers who had pandemic pay snatched away by the big bosses at Loblaw,” said Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi. “We’re leafleting Loblaw’s customers from coast-to-coast-to-coast. We want customers to be part of a national dialogue on the struggle of retail workers.”
Western Regional Director Gavin McGarrigle also called out the grocery giant on its treatment of workers.
“We’ve heard a lot during this pandemic about COVID heroes and that we’re all in this together but when push comes to shove the billionaires want to make sure that they get even richer. They want to rip away the pandemic pay and they want to make sure that they continue these part-time jobs,” said McGarrigle. “Let’s make sure that we don’t just talk about respecting these COVID heroes and that we treat them with the respect and the pay they deserve.”
Chris MacDonald, Assistant to the Unifor National President, pointed out that the reality of poor wages and precarious work in retail extends across the country.
“Fairness isn’t so simple with Loblaw, and many other union and non-union retailers, with their failed strategy of part-time work and low wages. What we’re seeing in Newfoundland is not unique and a business model reliant on part-time work tied to poor wages is not acceptable,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald encouraged retail workers and others to call on Canada’s largest grocers to compensate employees fairly by signing the petition at unifor.org/fairpayforever.
“We’re making sure we get Loblaw’s attention right across this country,” concluded Dias. “We’re with you out there in Newfoundland we’re standing with you right here.”
The virtual rally in support of the striking workers was live streamed on Unifor’s Facebook page. Watch here.