Vince Ready, special officer in the dispute between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys, has ordered the company to keep nine Safeway stores open until July 5. Sobeys had slated the stores for closure on May 5.
The order came after Labour Minister Harry Bains appointed Ready as special officer. President Ivan Limpright asked the government to intervene when negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement stalled last month. According to Section 106 of the BC Labour Code, in the interest of “industrial peace” the Minister may appoint a special officer during the term of a collective agreement if there is a dispute arising out of the agreement.
“This direction by Mr. Ready is good news,” said President Ivan Limpright. “It ensures that our members will continue to work at the stores for at least two more months. That’s two more months of income. Two more months to plan their lives.”
UFCW 1518 and Sobeys agreed to adjourn an illegal lockout complaint filed by the union with Labour Relations Board of BC to enable Ready to mediate the dispute. The union filed the complaint in January after Sobeys announced it would close 10 Safeway locations just before negotiations were set to begin. UFCW1518 subsequently filed a number of grievances related to the planned stores closures with the LRB.
Mr. Ready will serve as a mediator in an effort to resolve the various disputes arising out of the store closures. If the parties do not reach a voluntary agreement, any disputes that had been before the Labour Relations Board will go back to the LRB to be decided.
“The opportunity to mediate does not hurt our legal position in any way if the illegal lockout complaint or any of the other matters go back to the Board,” President Limpright added. “In fact, it gives us more of a chance to defend our members’ rights in the face of store closures. This is critical because it will allow our members to make informed, meaningful decisions about their future.”
President Limpright said he is expects Sobeys to engage in the mediation process in good faith and with a desire to resolve the illegal lockout complaint. “And if not, Mr. Ready will return the issue to the Labour Relations Board.”