Union urges supermarket chains to consider positive impact of wage hike

Unifor says a 'significant share' of new income will be spent back in stores

While Metro and Loblaw have claimed a hike to Ontario’s minimum wage could negatively impact their business, the country’s leading private sector union said it could actually have a positive effect on their bottom line.

Unifor’s national president, Jerry Dias, said it was “incredibly disappointing” that Loblaw Companies CEO Galen Weston and Metro CEO Eric La Flèche had chosen to focus on the increased labour costs resulting from the Wynn government’s decision to increase the provincial minimum wage next year.

Weston told analysts during Loblaw’s recent earnings call that the wage increase would add $190 million in annual labour costs, while La Flèche said Metro was exploring ways to mitigate any additional costs, including automation.

However, in a statement to the Globe and Mail, Weston said Loblaw does not oppose the minimum wage increase, but is doing its due diligence by making shareholders aware of the impact a wage hike would have on the company.

“Our company and I have been long-time supporters of progressive public policies that support a balanced, sustainable and prosperous economy, regardless of politics,” he said.

Unifor represents 10,000 supermarket workers throughout Ontario, including nearly 8,000 at Metro. The union said the planned increase would positively impact 70% of its members at Metro stores, and 90% of its members at Metro’s Food Basics and Loblaws’ No Frills banners.

The union said the Ontario minimum wage hike would boost part-time workers’ income by as much as $80 per week, based on a 24-hour workweek.

But Christine Connor, Unifor Local 414 president and herself a Metro worker, predicted a “significant share” of this new income would be spent back in the stores.

Connor said many of the union’s lowest-paid members couldn't afford to shop where they work, with some employees forced to use food banks. “This increase will not only drive more traffic to stores, it’s the socially responsible thing to do, and they need to get behind it,” said Connor in a statement.

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