Hundreds of Brandon Superstore employees may soon be walking the picket line.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union says 98.3 per cent of its members across seven Manitoba cities voted in favour of a strike, although they won’t walk off the job just yet — there are still five days of bargaining set to resume later this month.
Jeff Traeger, UFCW Local 832 president, said he hopes the strike vote will be a “wake-up call” for the company to take the union seriously.
“We have five days scheduled starting on Saturday, Sept. 21, and running through to the 25th,” Traeger said. “We will be sitting down and bargaining with the employers … even though it’s a tight time frame and there’s a lot of issues still up between the parties, we’re hoping that we can close the gap and get a tentative agreement over that period.”
The union represents 3,000 Loblaw employees (Superstore and Extra Foods), which includes 250-300 workers in Brandon.
“It’s disappointing that Loblaw, who just recently purchased Shoppers Drug Mart stores for $12.4 billion and post billions in sales, won’t offer their members fair wages and respectful working conditions,” Traeger said.
The union has been at the bargaining table since May 9.
“We started two months early and we’ve had 17 dates where we sat down with the employer already and we have five more to go,” Traeger said. “Twenty-two days at the bargaining table is an awful long time and should be plenty of time to get the deal done, but we seem to be continually asking the employer for their position on some of the major items that are still outstanding … and they continually tell us that they’re not ready to give it to us yet.”
Following the five days of bargaining, if the union’s committee cannot agree on a final offer, members will still have the right to vote to accept or reject it.
“We would have to conduct that vote across the province again and if our members reject it at that point, the committee would set a strike deadline,” he said.
UFCW Local 832 members last went on strike for several months in 1987.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 10, 2013