Sobeys/Safeway bargaining: Special Officer directs Sobeys to discuss FreshCo plans & job security

Special Officer Vince Ready has directed Sobeys to reveal information about its future plans for operations in British Columbia as well as discuss job security and severance related to opening its discount banner FreshCo.

This comes two weeks after UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway rejected the Special Officer’s non-binding recommendations made in the ongoing dispute with Sobeys. After a province-wide vote resulted in a 99% NO vote, the union bargaining committee had strong mandate to turn down recommendations that threatened to gut the collective agreement.

In a letter to both parties, Mr. Ready directed them to enter into mediation on September 10 and 11 to attempt to resolve outstanding issues. He further directed Sobeys to disclose “future plans regarding potential locations and number” of FreshCo stores in BC – information the union has long sought – and to discuss “provisions to deal with displacement of union members” including transfers and severance as Safeway stores transition to the new banner.

“Mr. Ready heard our members loud and clear,” said President Ivan Limpright. “Their 99 percent NO vote signaled that his recommendations were unacceptable. Finally, we hope to have real mediation to get Sobeys to disclose their FreshCo plans, and to discuss job security for our members.”

Failing a mediated agreement in the negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement, the Special Officer will issue a final and binding award, either through final offer selection as provided in the collective agreement or interest arbitration under Section 106 of the BC Labour Relations Code. In the meantime, Mr. Ready will issue an interim order to deal with severance, employment security, and the financial circumstances of certain stores.

“The Special Officer has begun to demonstrate an understanding of the union’s serious concerns. Job security is key and he knows that,” President Limpright continued. Perhaps the most important aspect of the interim order is Mr. Ready’s pledge to address the union’s concerns about the permanent reduction to the Safeway collective agreements. “Protecting the collective agreement is paramount. The Special Officer has heard Sobeys’ side. Now he’s beginning to see ours.”

You can read Mr. Ready’s letter (with contact information redacted for privacy) here.