By Rosa Saba in Toronto
Almost 1,300 workers at 17 No Frills grocery stores in Ontario could be on strike next week, as the union that represents them has set a strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Monday.
“Loblaw must come to the table prepared to raise wages and improve working conditions for these grocery store workers,” said Unifor national president Lana Payne in a news release Thursday.
The union said contract talks are ongoing, but that workers are prepared to strike to back their demands.
No Frills is the discount grocery banner owned by Loblaw Cos. Ltd., the largest grocery company in Canada. The 17 stores include the Blake Street No Frills in Barrie, the Bradford store, five locations in Toronto, as well as locations in Whitby, Etobicoke, Niagara Falls and elsewhere.
According to Unifor, six per cent of the workers across the stores are full-time. The rest are part-time, with a quarter being students.
The average hourly wage for the full-time workers is $19.89, while the average hourly wage for the part-time workers excluding the students is $16.95, according to Unifor. The average hourly wage for the students is $15.92.
In Ontario, the minimum wage for students under the age of 18 who work less than a certain number of hours per week is $15.60, compared with the general minimum wage of $16.55.
On Wednesday, Loblaw reported a third-quarter profit of $621 million, up from $556 million during the same quarter last year. The grocer has been expanding its footprint of discount stores like No Frills as consumers trade down, looking for deals amid the rising cost of living.
“Our Maxi and No Frills stores led the way, generating double-digit growth again this quarter,” said chairman Galen Weston on a conference call with analysts Wednesday.
The grocer and its competitors have come under scrutiny for continuing to see profits rise while food inflation soared across the country.
This round of bargaining is the first big round with a major grocery chain for Unifor after it reached a deal with Metro this summer that brought more than 3,700 workers in the Toronto area significant wage gains.
Those workers rejected the first deal their union reached with the employer, then went on strike for five weeks before a second deal was reached.
Unifor had said the Metro deal would help it set a pattern as it bargains with major grocery chains over the next couple of years.
In the press release Thursday, the union said No Frills workers are demanding similar gains to those the Metro workers received.
Workers are fed up with the disparity between their pay and Loblaw’s profits amid the growing cost of living, said Unifor Local 414 president Gord Currie in the release.
“You know it’s bad when workers at Canada’s largest grocery store chain are struggling to afford their own food, even at discount stores like No Frills,” he said.
Banner image: File photo
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2023.
Files – Barrie 360
Companies in this story: (TSX:L)
Store Locations – http://www.unifor.org
- Ajax: 105 Bayly Street
- Aylmer: 657 John Street North
- Barrie: 319 Blake Street
- Bradford: 305 Barrie Street
- Cobourg: 500 Division Street
- Etobicoke: 220 Royal York Road
- Napanee: 450 Center Street
- Niagara Falls: 6460 Lundy’s Lane
- Oshawa: 1050 Simcoe Street North
- Renfrew: 680 O’Brien Road
- Toronto: 372 Pacific Ave
- Toronto: 1951 Eglinton Avenue West
- Toronto: 1435 King Street West
- Toronto: 449 Parliament Street
- Toronto: 269 Coxwell Ave
- Whitby: 3355 Thickson Road
- Whitby: 920 Dundas Street West