Sobeys announces 10 store closures on eve of negotiations: Union won’t be bullied

Sobeys announced this morning that the company has earmarked 10 Safeway stores in British Columbia for permanent closure. Sobeys indicated that if it gets favourable terms and conditions for its FreshCo discount banner, it may open FreshCo stores at five of the closed Safeway locations. This comes on the eve of bargaining between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys for all of its Safeway stores in British Columbia.

“This is an insult and an outrage,” said Ivan Limpright, president of UFCW 1518, which represents about 4500 Safeway employees. “First, Sobeys squandered Safeway’s market share and sullied a well-loved BC brand. Now they want to make our members pay for their mistakes? This isn’t about business: it’s about people’s lives.”

President Limpright said he only learned of the decision at the end of business yesterday. “Hundreds of our members will lose their jobs. Hundreds more will be displaced through the transfer process. And Sobeys barely gave us a courtesy call,” he said. “That won’t fly in bargaining, though. We told the company that we need all of the information on decisions they’ve made that will impact our members. It’s time to stop the games and start respectful negotiations.”

The timing of the announcement is suspicious, said President Limpright. “Last week, on the first day of bargaining with UFCW 832 in Manitoba, Sobeys demanded poverty concessions and then walked away from the table. Now as negotiations are set to begin in British Columbia, they announce 10 store closures? It’s a classic scare tactic. But our members won’t be fooled.”

Sobeys has decided to make 2018 the year of attacking its Western Canada employees. This is not simply a BC fight; it is a fight that Sobeys has decided to launch across the entire West. UFCW 1518 will be working with other UFCW locals and UFCW Canada to fight back against Sobeys’ attempt to bring in poverty wages instead of living wages. President Limpright put Sobeys on notice, saying the union will enforce the collective agreement, which includes strong closure language. “In the case of permanent store closure, our members have rights. Sobeys has demonstrated they have little respect for the collective agreement but we’ll be there, contract in hand, every step of the way.”

The Safeway locations slated for closure are: Lougheed Mall, City Square, Sunwood Square, Point Grey, Royal Oak, Blundel, Broadmoor, Newton Town Centre, Strawberry Hills and Mission.