Mediation with Special Officer set for May

UFCW 1518 had its first meeting with Vince Ready, the Special Officer appointed by the provincial government after negotiations with Sobeys stalled last month. The purpose of the April 24 meeting was for both the union and the employer to identify and prioritize the outstanding issues.

“We proposed that the Special Officer first mediate, and if necessary arbitrate, our First Right of Refusal grievance,” said President Ivan Limpright. “In the event of permanent store closures, the union can purchase those stores. But Sobeys denied our request, so we filed a grievance.”

UFCW 1518 further suggested that Mr. Ready mediate the union’s illegal lockout complaint, which alleges that Sobeys illegally locked out more than 600 members at the 10 Safeway stores targeted for closure. The BC Labour Relations Code defines an illegal lockout as “closing a place of work, a suspension of work or a refusal by an employer to continue to employ a number of…employees in order to compel the employees to agree to conditions of employment.”

Because the store closure announcement came just before the union and company were set to begin negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement, it can only be viewed as a threat intended to intimidate members, weaken the union’s position and further Sobeys own cause at the bargaining table, added Limpright.

If the union is successful in either complaint, store closures would be prevented.

Finally, UFCW 1518 suggested that while these issues are being dealt with, Mr. Ready could mediate, and then if necessary, arbitrate the various grievances arising from the store closures. As expected, Sobeys’s position was that the Special Officer first needs to deal with negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement as well as it for its discount banner, FreshCo.”

Mr. Ready scheduled May 28 and 30 to learn more about each party’s proposals in the Safeway negotiations as well as the nature of the illegal lockout application, after which he will attempt to mediate both issues.