Sobeys workers on strike at Milton warehouse


Sobeys warehouse workers in Milton, Ont., are on strike, having rejected a contract proposal by the No. 2 grocery chain in Canada.

Some 428 United Food & Commercial Workers of Local 175 walked off the job midnight on Feb. 11, after rejecting a final offer from Sobeys. This comes following 13 days of negotiation.

The major sticking point with the workers was the nine-year term of the proposed contract, according to the union's website.

A local paper said the workers wanted a three-year deal. The report said union members were also concerned about the cost of group insurance and part-time employees working up to 40 hours a week without being reclassified as full-time.

Sobeys spokesperson Sarah Stover told the Toronto Star that the company “is not prepared to publicly disclose the details of our ongoing negotiations.”

In an e-mail to the Star, the retailer said that “while Sobeys remains hopeful that there will be a successful conclusion to ongoing negotiations, we have an obligation to ensure we continue to serve our customers regardless of the outcome of discussions. Through our contingency planning, we are well positioned to ensure the flow of goods to stores so we can continue to serve our customers with little or no disruption.”

Luc Lacelle, regional director for the United Food and Commercial Workers, told the Star that workers don’t want to be locked into a contract when the economy is volatile and they don’t know where they will be in the near future.  He added that Sobeys wasn’t “capable of giving us a guarantee that our facility would be up and operating for the next nine years."

Sobeys operates three distribution centres in Ontario, in Whitby, Milton and Vaughan.

This spring, the grocery chain has a deal to supply groceries to discount retailer Target, which is opening stores in Canada come March.

Some 78 per cent of union members rejected the company’s final offer and Lacelle said the two sides aren’t currently talking.

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