Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sudbury apparently has more than one labour dispute going on. The management of National Grocers have decided to close their warehouse in Sudbury. As if the prospect of losing one's job was not enough the workers were offered the bare legal minimum in terms of severance pay. The RWDSU union (the UFCW affiliate, not the more radical Western Canadian RWDSU who actually list the Canadian IWW in their links) who represent them are protesting this action and are calling for a boycott of Loblaws. Loblaws is, of course, part of the international Weston empire, and it goes under many aliases. These include Superstore, Great Food, Zehrs, Maxi & Cie, T & T Supermarket, Provigo and others. See this link for full details including their franchises. A local Sudbury boycott has little chance of success. A national (or international ?) one might be more likely to succeed. Of course the ultimate 'deal maker' would be an occupation of the warehouse before the goods were removed. Here's the story from the Sudbury Star.
Union calls on citizens to boycott Loblaw products

Sudburians who want to show their support for National Grocers employees based in Sudbury who are losing their jobs should boycott Loblaw products in protest until the company improves its severance offer, say the workers.

"We're calling for a boycott of all President's Choice and No Name products and telling everyone to shop at Metro," said Bruce Lawrence, who has worked for 38 years at National Grocers.

Lawrence said the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has always worked well with National Grocers in Sudbury.

"Why are they treating us like this now?" he asked.

Lawrence and the union are upset Loblaw is offering one week's pay for each year worked up to a cap of $25,000.

"Basically, the company has offered the minimum wage for employment standards," said Derik McArthur, the union's Northern Joint Council president. "They can't offer anything lower because it's against the law."

McArthur said the last day of work for union members will probably be April 24.

"Loblaw has once again shown its lack of caring and compassion for its employees, their families and the communities they operate in," he said.

"Generally, a company will pay employment standard severance if they are going out of business. This is certainly not the case for Canada's largest food retailer."

McArthur said the severance offered here is lower than what displaced workers in southern Ontario received.

The union and Loblaw met last week to discuss the pay.


"They said this is the new direction the company is taking," McArthur said. "Oddly enough, on the same day, there was a bakery in Quebec, a Westons bakery that is connected to Loblaw, that said in a press release they were to receive well above the standard requirements and relocation assistance.

"We're not asking for anything more than what everyone else is getting. We're asking for equality."

Julija Hunter, Loblaw Companies Limited's vice-president of public relations, said Tuesday details of severance packages are confidential and it would be inappropriate for the company to comment.

"We thank our colleagues for their dedication and appreciate their hard work," she said. "We have honoured the terms of our collective agreement with the union and provincial labour laws."

In early March, Loblaw Companies Limited announced it was closing its massive National Grocers warehouse on Lorne Street, throwing more than 125 people out of work. The union represents 107 of the warehouse's employees.

Loblaw Companies said it was making the move to realign its distribution centres from five facilities to four in Ontario.

The Lorne Street warehouse supplies non-perishable food to Loblaw-affiliated stores across northeastern Ontario, including stores in Greater Sudbury, New Liskeard, Manitoulin Island, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins. Store banners include Real Canadian Superstore, Your Independent Grocer, Freshmart and Valumart.

The union held a rally at the Lorne Street warehouse. Horns were honking, people were yelling and songs about unions and replacement workers blared outside the warehouse during the demonstration.

Darrin Paquette has worked at National Grocers for 24 years and said he is "very disappointed" with the severance pay.

"We were counting on something similar they offered to the branches in southern Ontario," Paquette said.

Paquette added the support received from the community yesterday was great.

"We've got the Steelworkers here and lots of horns," he said. "The people who are driving by seem to be supportive."

At 33, Steve Patay has to find a new job to support his two young boys. He has been working at the warehouse for 15 years.

"It's just horrible, they are not giving us enough notice," Patay said. "They are giving us the bare minimum and it's leaving a lot of the guys high and dry. Lots of people with families work here. It's not enough time to put anything in order.

"All the others branches had a year or six months notice. And it's literally nothing here."

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