Sobeys announces 10 FreshCo conversions, delivers buyout offers

This morning, Sobeys advised UFCW 1518 of their plans to convert 10 Safeway locations to its discount banner FreshCo. Five of the locations have been closed since July 2018; the other five locations are set to close in coming months.

The company also began making personalized buyout offers to all employees as ordered by Special Officer Vince Ready, who was appointed by the provincial government in 2018.

Sobeys will close the following Safeway locations for several months of renovations before reopening them as FreshCo in the summer and fall: Abbotsford, Aldergrove, Downtown Chilliwack, Delta/Ladner and Maple Ridge. Members at these locations received letters today, offering options of a buyout, buydown or transfer to other Safeway locations.

“Empire has made it clear that their bottom line comes before the interests of their hard working and dedicated employees,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “Their desire to move to a discount banner has led to challenges in these existing, established Safeway stores.”

UFCW 1518 members in the stores announced to be closing today will have some options, including the ability to move to another Safeway store, take a severance of up to $65,000 depending on seniority and job classification, or choose a buy down option.

FreshCo will be represented by UFCW 1518; however there are issues with the collective agreement issued by Mr. Ready and the ability for Sobeys to convert; both issues are being appealed to the BC Labour Relations Board and the BC Court of Appeal.

Sobeys also issued voluntary buyout offers in all other Safeway locations in accordance with Mr. Ready’s decision. “There’s been a lot of uncertainty around the buyout offer since Mr. Ready handed down his ruling in December,” explained President Kim Novak. “We’re glad the offers are finally being made, but our legal counsel needs to review everything. We’re working as quickly as we can to ensure that things proceed legally and that members are properly informed.”

The union is also hosting special information sessions with Safeway members across the province in the coming weeks. Please click here for dates, times and locations of the special information sessions. In regions where there aren’t information sessions, union representatives have scheduled special store visits to connect directly with members. Please check your union board for the notice.