Loblaw contract dispute sees more than 500 employees laid off in Calgary, union says


More than 500 workers at a Loblaw distribution centre in Calgary will be out of a job this week. That’s according to a union that represents the employees.

Amid negotiations for higher wages, Teamsters Local Union 987 said that 527 out of 534 at the location have been told they will be laid off effective Thursday.

The union has been in talks with the grocery and drugstore retailer since the last agreement expired June 6.

“A portion of the distribution centre workers who earn hourly wages are not only struggling with earning less than the acceptable living wage for Calgary of $22.40, but they are also now facing layoffs,” said John Taylor, the business agent for Teamsters Local Union 987. 

According to Taylor, Loblaw was offering a “straight money offer” that did not include any rules or regulations around working conditions. He said the company would not change anything the union had asked for that did not involve money.

Teamsters Local 987 rejected the employer’s offer on Nov. 3, and again rejected the same offer on Nov. 15 — which was a labour board supervised proposal vote.

In a statement sent to CBC News, Catherine Thomas, the vice-president of communication at Loblaw, said her company was disappointed the offer was “narrowly rejected,” and that many colleagues share the sentiment. 

“The union’s comments ignore that this was a strong offer with wage increases of up to 32 per cent for full-time and more than 40 per cent for part-time colleagues over a five-year term,” Thomas said. 

“These are some of the most competitive wages in the industry, some reaching more than $33 per hour. To be clear, today approximately two-thirds of full-time Freeport workers already make more than $22/hour, significantly above the minimum wage of $15.”

But Taylor says it’s not just about the money. 

“The working conditions of the language that we had in our agreement six years ago that the company took away … it was removed from the agreement six years ago and we want the language back,” he said.

“The offer they made was definitely, I mean, I’m not going to say it was terrible. It was a fair offer. But again, this company, given their success, could do better.”

With the rejection of the offer, Thomas said the company is preparing for a work stoppage at the facility on Freeport Boulevard N.E. 

She said the company has started to move inventory to other distribution centres to ensure stores can continue to serve customers without disruption.

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