Op-Ed: What Metro strike could mean to Canada’s grocery industry

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In a recent opinion editorial for the Windsor Star, food policy professor at Dalhousie University and industry commentator Sylvain Charlebois laid out how the current Metro strike in Toronto is symbolic of the challenges facing grocery workers and Canada’s grocery industry more broadly.

The issues raised by the union reflect systemic challenges afflicting numerous front-line workers within the sector. Amidst the mounting cost of living and economic uncertainties, employees are earnestly endeavouring to safeguard their rights and livelihoods, and their demand for fair treatment is both rational and justified. Who, indeed, could contest such a noble pursuit?

Adding fuel to the motivation of union workers to strike is the disclosure of hefty bonuses recently bestowed upon grocery executives. As per company documents disclosed earlier this year, total compensation for the top five Metro executives for the year concluding in September 2022 amounted to $13.2 million, signifying a four per cent upsurge from the previous year’s equivalent period.

Notably, the bonus component of their compensation saw a 13.7 per cent boost, to $3.7 million. That figure equates to $1,000 per employee currently partaking in the strike.

– Sylvain Charlebois, Food Policy Professor at Dalhousie University

Charlebois’ insights certainly square with the experiences we’ve heard from our own retail grocery members as they scrape and claw to make ends meet in the midst of an affordability crisis that has seen their own employers enjoying substantial profits.

Most recently during Safeway Wage Reopener negotiations, members of our Bargaining Committee from stores across the province shared their own stories of sadness and strife with many identifying how frustrating it is to struggle to afford to shop where they work.

Concluding his analysis of the current situation, Charlebois goes on to note that, “grocery workers currently possess considerable political capital, and they are well aware of this fact.”

As the union representing thousands of retail grocery workers in Alberta, we won’t stop fighting to create change in an industry facing a crisis of Canadian confidence and ensure the essential workers who bring food to the tables of Alberta families are treated fairly.