Like you, yesterday I woke up to learn of the bombshell news dropped by Sobeys. With no advance notice to the union, Sobeys announced that it would begin an aggressive introduction of its Eastern Canadian FreshCo banner into Western Canada. Sobeys suggested that it would be converting many of its Safeway stores to the FreshCo banner. Those stores would be operated as franchisees. It also stated that it would be permanently closing a few stores. Sobeys did not disclose what stores it plans to close or convert to FreshCo.
I am outraged that I had to learn about these significant developments yesterday morning while listening to Empire Company Ltd.’s (parent company of Sobeys) conference call on its quarterly financial results and not from Sobeys directly.
Sobeys has not provided me with any additional information than it provided to you, our members, and the public, yesterday.
After Michael Medline, Sobeys President and CEO, publicly stated a few months ago that he was considering expanding FreshCo, the union wrote seeking information from the company to find out what it was planning and how it might impact our members. Unfortunately, Sobeys refused to provide the union any information. Instead, it said it would not provide any information to us until Sobeys’ negotiations commenced.
Now we know why they were trying to hide the information:
- Sobeys wants to undermine the existing Safeway collective agreement.
- Sobeys wants to bring in an inferior collective agreement at FreshCo.
- Sobeys intends to operate stores as franchises and intends to close stores.
We have demanded an immediate meeting with Medline so we can learn about Sobeys’ plans. We are frustrated at how the company treated everyone in handling this announcement and need to reset the relationship in a more positive, collaborative direction.
We are also considering the legal options. We will let you know when we take action. Certainly, we will challenge any attempt by Sobeys to have something other than the standard Safeway collective agreement apply at any FreshCo stores it may open here. Fortunately, the Safeway Extra new banner decision will not provide help to Sobeys if it tries to impose an inferior agreement at converted Safeway stores.
We believe that working together with our members, we will be able to successfully oppose Sobeys’ plans. Over the next while we will be asking all our members, not just those working at Safeway, to help us protect the jobs and working conditions at Safeway.
This fight impacts everyone. Know this, we will not stop fighting for your rights.
President, UFCW 1518