Metro stores in Greater Toronto Area close as workers go on strike

Metro says it remains committed to the bargaining process
metro toronto

Toronto-area residents hoping to pick up groceries at Metro Inc. were greeted by closed doors and picket lines at many locations on Saturday (July 29) as thousands of employees formally went on strike at 27 stores across the region.

Some 3,700 members of Unifor Local 414 walked off the job shortly after midnight, effectively shuttering operations at the stores where they work. Picket lines had gone up at affected locations by 8 a.m., while stores staffed by unimpacted workers continued to operate as usual.

Both federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Unifor National President Lana Payne were on hand to support the picket after workers rejected a collective bargaining deal reached last week.

Unifor had endorsed the deal when it was first tabled and Payne described it Saturday as the "best agreement in decades,'' but said it still wasn't enough to properly address what she described as deteriorating working conditions across the national grocery sector.

Marie-Claude Bacon, Metro's vice-president of public affairs, issued a statement on Saturday reiterating Metro's disappointment with the strike action and saying it remains committed to the bargaining process.

"We worked constructively with the union and the employees' bargaining committee and we reached a mutually satisfactory agreement that they unanimously recommended to employees,'' the statement read. "It provided significant increases for our employees over the 4 years of the collective agreement in addition to improved pension and benefits, building on working conditions that are already among the highest in the industry.''

Metro said affected stores will be closed for the duration of the strike, but pharmacies will remain open. Impacted stores include locations in Toronto and its suburbs, Brantford, Orangeville, Milton, Oakville, Brampton and Mississauga.

The labour strife at Metro marked an inauspicious start to a series of negotiations Unifor is set to take on in the coming months.

The country's largest private-sector union is preparing to bargain more than a dozen collective agreements with the major grocers over the next two years, with the Metro contract the first of the group.

Payne previously said the union plans to pattern bargain, meaning the Metro deal would ideally set a precedent for future negotiations.

The union has said its priorities for Metro workers were improving pay and access to benefits, as well as improving working conditions and stability.

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