The first week of a labour dispute at Metro grocery stores has almost passed and there’s been no indication of negotiations.

The workers are represented by Unifor Local 414. The union has a little less than 4,000 grocery store employees.

Frontline grocery store workers at 27 Metro stores in the Greater Toronto Area walked off the job at midnight July 29. Pickets were at stores hours later at the First Street location in Orangeville and at stores in Toronto, Brantford, Milton, Oakville, Brampton, North York, Islington, Willowdale, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Newmarket and Scarborough.

Those on the picket line are full- and part-time workers in all grocery departments as well as cashiers and managers.

The Montreal-based company shuttered all stores soon after the labour action was taken by the unionized workers. Privately-hired security has been posted at the Orangeville location.

In a press release, the company said it is “extremely disappointed” workers decided to walk off the job. A tentative agreement had been reached after weeks of negotiations, the statement said, but workers rejected it “even though the union bargaining committee unanimously recommended the agreement to its members.”

While not including specific details, the company praised the rejected deal.

“The company has been negotiating with the union for the past few weeks and reached a fair and equitable agreement that meets the needs of our employees and our customers while ensuring that Metro remains competitive,” the statement read.

“The settlement provided significant increases for employees in all four years of the agreement, as well as pension and benefits improvements for all employees, including part-time employees.”

But Lana Payne, the union’s national president, dulled some of the shine the company cast on the rejected deal. She acknowledged that the deal contained significant gains for workers, but the union’s membership felt it wasn’t enough.

“This decision to go on strike comes after years of these workers being nickelled and dimed while facing increased precarity and eroded job quality,” Payne said. “It comes after having pandemic pay stripped away. It comes at a time of record profits and soaring CEO compensation.”

The labour dispute comes at a time of post-COVID pandemic economic hardship with soaring interest rates and high inflation for life’s necessities. Payne said life has simply become unaffordable for so many people.

“You know the system is broken when frontline workers can’t afford food, rent, or gas,” said Gord Currie, the president of Unifor Local 414 which represents the Orangeville workers. “Frontline grocery workers at Metro deserve the utmost respect, especially after working tirelessly through the pandemic.”

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By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 08:08

This item reprinted with permission from   Orangeville Citizen   Orangeville, Ontario

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