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Loblaw, union set to resume talks after strike and lockouts

Workers at the Provigo, Maxi and Loblaws stores in Rouyn-Noranda–Témiscaming are protesting working conditions

Talks between Loblaw and striking and locked out workers at three of its supermarkets in Northern Quebec are set to resume August 6 and 7.

Workers have been protesting the shutdowns of the supermarkets including the Provigo in Témiscaming located 560 km northwest of Montreal, where about 28 employees are locked out.

The Maxi and Loblaws in Rouyn-Noranda has 190 members of the Confederation des Syndicates Nationaux on the street. Workers at the Maxi have been locked out since Aug. 16, 2012; while the Loblaws' store workers have been on strike since June of this year.

Meanwhile Provigo workers in Témiscaming have been locked out since Dec. 15 for wearing black t-shirts with the slogan "respect above all" on them and pyjama or camouflage pants to work, said union president Cathy Presseault. Their five-year contract expired April 2012.

Presseault said at issue are salaries and working conditions.

The companies, all owned by Loblaw, offer employees varying amounts of hours each week, said Presseault, who as assistant bakery manager at Provigo, earns $12.40 an hour after 20 years.

"Some weeks you can get 32 hours, some weeks, 20, some 12," she said. "How can you finance a car or a house never knowing what you're going to earn?"

Some workers earn minimum wage, but the average is about $12 and change, she said.

In an e-mail to Canadian Grocer, Loblaw declined to comment on negotiations but wrote: "Please rest assured that we are negotiating in good faith and that we hope to reach an agreement that will be satisfactory to both parties as soon as possible."

Presseault said she has organized a van with a coolers to transport families in the area to the stores in Rouyn-Noranda to buy fresh produce and meat and protect it from the heat during the hour drive each way.

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