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Union files another complaint against Sobeys as transfer process stalls

UFCW 1518 has filed another complaint against Sobeys at the BC Labour Board, this time for failing to provide information needed to assist members affected by the Safeway closures. On January 23, Sobeys announced it would shutter 10 stores across the Lower Mainland and Mission.

The complaint follows the union’s repeated requests for information about Sobeys’ plans for all Safeway stores, including redevelopment plans, as well as  financial information for all locations to assist in the ongoing Section 54 discussions. “We’ve now had three Section 54 meetings with Sobeys, and we’ve made little progress. We can’t make decisions of such enormity for our members without all of the relevant information,” said President Ivan Limpright. “It’s impossible for us and our members to make informed decisions about the future while we’re in the dark.”

UFCW 247, which represents Safeway members working in the meat and deli departments, also filed a Section 54 complaint against Sobeys.

Sobeys has previously stated that it has provided a “fulsome disclosure of the company’s plans at this point” although the union has no more information than what the company has told the public through the media.

Section 54 of the BC Labour Code allows for the development of an adjustment plan if the employer introduces “a measure, policy, practice or change that affects the terms, conditions or security of employment of a significant number of employees to whom a collective agreement applies…” Although there is store closure language with strong protections for members in the collective agreement, the language has never been applied en masse. Section 54 of the code requires the employer to meet in good faith with the union to work out a plan to assist members through the transition.

“Sobeys’ decision to close 10 Safeway stores will massively affect our members – not just at those locations, but at the other stores that will be receiving staff from the closed stores. More than 600 members are facing major life changes, either because they have to uproot their lives and families, or because they lost their job – some of them after 10, 15 years with the company,” President Limpright said. “I don’t think Sobeys understands the implications of their actions, not only for our members, but for the BC economy.”

President Limpright said the union is working tirelessly to address the situation, and thanked members for their patience. “We understand how stressful this is for our members. They want answers and we can’t provide any – mainly because Sobeys won’t give us the information we need. But as soon as we know more, our members will too – I promise.”

Members at stores slated for closure do not need to notify the employer of their desire to transfer or of their location preference, he added. “The 30-day window referred to in section 8.07 of the collective agreement will start once they receive their option forms.”

The next Section 54 discussion with Sobeys takes place March 2.