On Monday, October 29th the union for Saskatoon Co-op workers announced that a strike could be occurring as early as 12:01am on Thursday, November 1st. More than 900 workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada Local 1400, which represents the workers at grocery stores, gas stations, Agro centre, home centres and liquor stores across the region. The union served the notice on the Co-op and the Minister’s office this past Monday.
According to Rob Gillies, the UFCW Canada Local 1400 Director of Negotiations, the main issue for the workers is the employers’ refusal to bargain the outstanding issues, including the Saskatoon Co-op’s demand to introduce a second-tier wage grid, which would see the Co-op lowering the wages of new employees. “The sole reason given by the CEO of the Saskatoon Co-op for the introduction of the second tier is ‘long term sustainability’ of the Co-op. This rationale does not make sense to the employees’ bargaining committee, as this sustainability shouldn’t be achieved by lowering the quality of life of new employees,” Gillies explained in a release. The notice continued to state that “The Saskatoon Co-operative Association boasts of its economic prowess, and that its ranked 21st on the Top 100 Companies in Saskatchewan list, but somehow says it needs to roll back wages now.”
Saskatoon Co-op noted that they are disappointed that the union walked away from its best and final offer after spending more than a year negotiating a new agreement, stating that this offer provided higher wages and increases than comparable competitors in Saskatoon. “We’ve made an offer that protects our employees’ wages and benefits while ensuring our Co-op can remain competitive in the long-term,” Grant Wicks, Chief Executive Officer of Saskatoon Co-op, stated.
UFCW Local 1400 and Saskatoon Co-op have had a partnership since 1979. “We value the longstanding relationship we have with our union. Throughout negotiations, we have found common ground on a number of issues. We’re committed to continuing to work together to come to an agreement that’s fair and equitable for both parties,” Wicks added.
Saskatoon Co-op has 30 locations throughout Saskatoon, Warman, Martensville, Colonsay and Watrous and has been in operation within Saskatoon and surrounding companies since 1936. In the event of a strike, Saskatoon Co-op will be keeping most of their locations open and will provide full details on open locations and hours at www.saskatoonco-op.crs.