Strike Or Settle at Superstore?

Superstore management makes final offer.

Yesterday, Loblaws advanced a final offer for a new union contract covering Superstore union members across the province. As we digest and analyze the offer, it is clear that it represents a substantial and significant improvement from the offer on the table before your 97% strike vote was taken.

Superstore union members are faced with a choice: do you strike, or do you settle?

What would a strike look like?

What a strike against Superstore would look like is difficult to predict. But any strike in this economy, and in the era of COVID-19, can reasonably be assumed to have the following characteristics: it will be long, difficult, demanding, and ridden with conflict and emotion.

At any point, the Alberta government could intervene, and bad labour laws could result in prohibiting the strike or severely limiting your ability to picket. The government may choose to stop you from striking altogether by calling your work “essential” and claiming a work stoppage cannot be allowed in the current environment. 

Further, your union has conducted a market survey on customer attitudes through Environics Research. Customer support is critical to a successful retail strike. The data the survey provided is preliminary, but suggests that customer support is unpredictable, if only because many Superstore customers don’t know anything about the issues. Customers tend to be motivated by the price of the goods.

The survey pointed to the likelihood that customer support in Edmonton could be higher than in the rest of the province. And while a significant percentage of customers could have sympathy for Superstore workers, many others will still cross a picket line. Large numbers of customers shopping in stores will be disheartening and will significantly erode solidarity among picketers.

Ultimately, the survey revealed a mixed bag when it comes to customers and indicates that we will have a lot of work to do around earning customer support if we go on strike.

When it comes to union members, 3,000 of the 10,000 eligible Superstore union members voted to strike. Of those 3,000, just over 2,000 have signed up to picket.

Unfortunately; however, only about 700 workers, or 7% of Superstore union members, have indicated that they are committed to a strike of any significant duration. This is worrisome, as we don’t know if picket lines will crumble in a short period of time.

We also know that Superstore is currently on a “hiring spree,” with signs advertising employment opportunities popping up all over the place.  It is clear that this push is part of a Company scab strategy to prepare for a potential strike. Sadly, using scabs in Alberta is legal and an option that Loblaws can explore. They are also asking existing employees to cross the picket line, and could lock employees out under Alberta law.

The last union strike against Loblaws was approximately two months long in Newfoundland, and it did not yield a successful outcome. The last big retail strike in Western Canada was against Saskatoon Co-ops, and it lasted about six months. The union managed to badly hurt the Company’s business through the entire Christmas season, but the settlement some months later was very modest.

The good news is, notwithstanding these risks, we are convinced that the picketers we will have will be animated and passionate about their rights. If Superstore members wish to strike, your union is committed to assisting them in doing so and will be with them beyond a shadow of a doubt.

While it is clear that we will not have “an army,” we will surely have a strong “rebel force” that will be able to irritate, agitate, and nip at the heels of a multi-billion-dollar giant corporation for months on end.

In short, Loblaws will know they are in a fight.

What does the Company offer say?

The Company offer represents a substantial and significant improvement from the offer they presented before your 97% strike vote. It also represents and includes many workplace improvements that were negotiated prior to the strike vote.

In fact, since the strike vote, the Company has retracted all of its province-wide concessions. We defeated the Company’s desires to do away with the Sunday premium and to give more of our members’ hours to supervisors. The reality is that your 97% strike vote had a major impact on the Company’s position in bargaining.

Below are some highlights of the Company’s offer:

New special rights protecting victims of domestic violence. Your life at work often intersects with your life outside of work and enshrining these rights in your collective agreement is another way for us to make a better world by making better workplaces.

New rights for those who wish to observe special days related to their faith. The observance of faith is very important to many of our Superstore members, and we know that protecting your rights to those observances is part of creating better workplaces.

The Company has doubled its retro offer. This development only emerged after your overwhelming strike vote and relentless pressure from your Bargaining Committee.

The Company has agreed to eliminate cash register receipts (BPS/BPA) that have a known association with higher cancer rates among women and children. A lot of people don’t know about this issue, but it’s your union’s job to do its research and improve your health and safety rights at work while pushing to create a better and safer world.

A commitment to a Company-paid program to provide education to union members and improve rights at work. Empowering our members with the tools to improve their lives both at work and at home is a key element of our commitment to building better workplaces and a better world.

The creation of a new Company-funded program to monitor stores and ensure you get the representation you deserve. As we continue to make our way through the pandemic, it is vital that Superstore union members have access to enhanced representation to ensure their rights are respected and protected!

Drastic improvements to scheduling and shift allocations that will help provide increased hours for part-time employees.

A direct drug card for full-time employees.

Before the strike vote, the Company would not provide necessary benefit contribution levels to part-time benefit plans. After the strike vote, the Company has agreed to increase contribution levels so that the benefit plans can continue to be healthy. Remember, all sorts of basic benefits are available to part-time employees working as little as ten hours per week.

These sorts of benefits are something that is never seen in non-union part-time jobs. Sustaining these benefit plans is one of a number of major victories arising from your overwhelming strike vote.

A commitment to creating more full-time jobs and hiring for those jobs quickly and efficiently. More full-time opportunities mean better job security and an ability to make a living while working at Superstore.

The offer includes meaningful increases to wages, wage scales, and retroactivity. Since the strike vote, the Company has doubled its retro offer. Unfortunately, this is not a restoration of pandemic pay, but is a type of “bonus” for your work during the pandemic during which you did not receive extra compensation.

Since the strike vote, the Company has doubled its proposed wage increases for people that were stuck at the $15 minimum wage. A new wage scale has been created for these workers so that they are not “frozen” like workers so often are in non-union service industry jobs. This scale also credits employees with hours worked such that their immediate increases could be as much as $0.90 per hour.

The offer guarantees wage increases of 1.5% in the first year, 1% lump-sum payments in the second and third years, 1.5% in the fourth year, and 2% in the fifth year. Superstore’s major competitor, Safeway, left increases in years 4 and 5 as an uncertainty and in the hands of an arbitrator.

No one can describe this as a “rich” deal. Compared to other union collective agreements; however, it is superior. Generally speaking, many Albertans lost their jobs during the pandemic. And between 2019 and 2020, many Albertans suffered a 6-10% decline in their income.

The real question when looking at this offer in the context of this economy and this pandemic is not whether it is “good” or “bad”. The better question is whether it is good enough or adequate.

Our union strongly believes in Superstore workers, and we share the view that Superstore union members deserve much more. Given that this is the Company’s final offer, can a lengthy and difficult strike be a worthwhile investment in an unpredictable outcome?

When reviewing the offer, some of the contents can be confusing and their interpretation may not be apparent. Please contact us directly if you have questions and want a further explanation about how the offer specifically impacts you. 

How do you decide?

It’s important that you carefully weigh the value of the offer versus the prospect of a strike. In our opinion, there is no more ability to negotiate with the Company. We have reached an either/or intersection. Either you accept their final offer, or you ask your union to commence a strike.

At times you will feel conflicted about what to do.

We urge you to discuss the options with your coworkers, your union representatives, and above all, with your family. These discussions will form the basis of a thoughtful and informed decision that is in your best interests.

When speaking to your coworkers about the offer, try to avoid extreme positions. It is easy to yell “go on strike”, without considering what that will look like months down the line. Alternatively, it is easy to demand that people accept the deal without considering what the implications of the offer may mean in the future. Remember, ten thousand workers could well have ten thousand different opinions.

Please urge your coworkers to participate in voting. The outcome will be determined by the majority of those who vote, not whether a majority of the entire workforce has demanded a strike or a settlement.

Whether there is a strike or settlement, it is obviously important that the decision be a collective one and represent the will of Superstore union members.

That’s what our union is all about.

How will you cast your vote?

We will be releasing information about the voting process in the coming days. There will be the opportunity to vote both in-person and online.

Online voting will be facilitated in a secure fashion with unique and individual voter identification assigned to those who opt to vote online. Voters’ lists will be cross-referenced to ensure that every member receives only one chance to cast a ballot and to ensure the integrity of the voting process.

We will send out additional information about this process, including online voting instructions and in-person voting times and locations so that you have all of the information you need to fully participate in the process.

Telephone Town Halls

To assist you in making the decision between striking or settling, your union will be coordinating three special telephone town halls for Superstore union members next week to review our current situation. The town halls will take place on:

  • Tuesday, October 19 at 7:00 PM
  • Wednesday, October 20 at 12:00 PM
  • Thursday, October 21 at 7:00 PM

We will review the choices facing Superstore union members on these three telephone town halls, including a comprehensive review of the Company’s offer, the likely dynamics of a potential strike, and the provincial bargaining environment in which we find ourselves.

Superstore union members will also have the opportunity to ask their questions about the offer and a strike on the town halls.

As always, all Superstore union members need to do to participate in the town halls is answer our phone call immediately prior to the start of each of the meetings. You will be automatically connected to the meeting so you can listen in and ask your questions, and you will receive a phone call on each of the three days we are hosting telephone town halls.

If you miss the call, you can listen and ask questions online by visiting

Online Zoom Meetings

Additionally, your union will be hosting two online meetings for those members who are not able to make the telephone town halls using the Zoom meeting platform. Zoom is very easy to use and only requires that you click a link to participate in a meeting using either your phone or computer.

Our Zoom meetings will take place on:

  • Wednesday, October 20 at 9:00 PM
  • Thursday, October 21 at 10:00 PM

All Superstore union members are welcome to join the Zoom meetings, even if you participate in one of the telephone town halls. We will be reviewing the same information on the Zoom meetings and, again, members will have the opportunity to ask their questions.

We’ll send out links to the meetings closer to the dates.

Doing what is right for you

Ultimately, careful conversations about the pros and cons of each option will result in the best possible decision. And what matters most is that you are empowered to make the best decision for yourselves and your families.

We will do everything in our power to ensure you have what you need in order to make that decision.