SEIU Local 2: Sobeys’ refusal to offer fair wages could mean a national boycott and significant lost revenue at Lawtons Drugs

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Sobeys’ claims Union cancelled conciliation meetings in Pete’s Frootique negotiations false

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Dec. 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour and Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council announced actions to support the workers striking at Sobeys Pete’s Frootique store in Halifax in a press conference today.

As the workers’ strike enters its fourth week, local, provincial, and national actions were revealed.

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“Sobeys’ offer of a nickel raise above minimum wage is a heartless insult,” said Danny Cavanagh, the NSFL President. “Not just to the workers at Pete’s Frootique, but all workers in Nova Scotia who are struggling to make ends meet.”

“The Trade Union movement will not stand by while these workers are starved into submission through the Christmas season by this corporate giant,” said Cavanagh.

“It is shameful that these workers can’t afford to shop at the place they work,” said Debbie Richardson, the HDLC President. “Many of them rely on foodbanks to survive and government inaction on corporate profiteering in the grocery sector is hurting all Canadians.”

Deadline

Cavanagh said if the strike remains unresolved beyond December 15, 2023, the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour will start discussion with unions and members to consider not doing business through their participation loyalty card program, which is offered through the Atlantic Healthcare Coalition Society. The program, established in collaboration between the Labor movement and Lawton’s Drugs, a subsidiary of Sobeys, and encompasses a significant number of union members, reaching into the thousands.  

“A national online advertising campaign will also be launched to discourage the Canadian public from patronizing Sobeys and its affiliates during Christmas shopping season,” he said.

National Day of Action

“We will be supporting striking workers by calling on our affiliates to participate in a National Day of Action on Saturday December 16,” said Richardson.

Information pickets are planned in various cities across Canada including Halifax, Digby and Yarmouth here in Nova Scotia; Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, St. Catharines and London in Ontario; and Vancouver, Victoria and Abbottsford in British Columbia. More may be added.

“These workers fought really hard to win this Union,” said Richardson. “And to be treated this way is shameful.”

Not the first time for Sobeys

This is not the first time Sobeys willingness to bargain in good faith in Nova Scotia has come into question. In June 2014, United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada, Local 864, certified Lawtons staff at Scotia Square in downtown Halifax. In a 2016 decision, the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board was highly critical of the company’s actions during a dispute with the UFCW local. The board found bargaining had stalled because “Lawton’s had adopted uncompromising bargaining positions with respect to wages, and holidays and leaves, without reasonable justification.” [United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada Local 864 v Lawton’s Drug Store Ltd. #144, 2016 Can LI I 153454 (NS LRB)].

In the case of Pete’s Frootique, Sobeys has refused to offer starting wages above $15.05, which is the pay most workers would receive under the company’s proposal.

Company’s false assertions

On numerous occasions Sobeys has claimed that the Union cancelled talks, both in the media and in correspondence with concerned customers. In an email the company sent a concerned shopper, the company writes: “We are disappointed both by the decision SEIU Local 2 has made to cancel our scheduled conciliation meetings, and by our teammates’ decision to strike.”

This assertion is untrue. Conciliation was cancelled by the Department of Labour. The conciliator provided both parties with a letter via email on November 3, 2023, stating his report had been submitted.

“Perhaps the truth is too embarrassing to admit,” said Nicholle Savoie, one of the strikers. “A giant corporation bringing in billions in revenue, and whose CEO took home over $8.6 million last year, has refused to offer grocery workers who are paid minimum wage more than a five cent per hour increase. They are disappointed in us? I’d say we’re pretty disappointed in them.”

“The support we’ve been receiving over the last few weeks has been incredible – and we know it’s not only because people see the injustice we are facing as workers,” continued Savoie, “but also because all Canadians are sick and tired of seeing large corporations making record profits while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.”

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour represents 70,000 members of affiliated unions in more than 350 locals working in every aspect of Nova Scotia’s economy.

The Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council represents over 24,000 unionized workers in all sectors of the economy in the HRM.

SEIU Local 2 represents 20,000 workers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. We are proud members of the largest, fastest growing, and most dynamic union in North America.

For information about the workers’ efforts to win a fair contract from Sobeys, owners of Pete’s Frootique, visit www.PetesOnStrike.ca.

Media Contact: Diego Mendez | 416-476-7762 | [email protected]

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