Safeway Members Speak Up – Do You Share Their View?

With the Safeway Collective Agreement expiring in March 2017, Local 401’s highest priority right now is gearing up for contract talks in light of the impact the Sobeys takeover of Safeway has had on the members just like you.

Your union reps and elected officials are working hard formulating proposals for contract negotiations.  Starting March 8th we will be asking for your input at a series of proposal and strategy meetings to be held across the province, concluding on March 23rd.

We will not only be surveying you for proposals, we will also be asking for your involvement with the campaign. You are the union and together we will develop the best possible strategies with which to meet your employer at the negotiating table.

In recent months, your union reps have been talking a lot with Safeway employees.  In speaking with members like you, we are listening carefully to the concerns and questions that require answers.

In these impromptu, informal focus-group-like settings we are hearing things like:

  1. For the first time in Safeway’s history, they can sell the same products at their non-union stores. This will have an impact on Safeway workers in ways we’ve never had to consider. Safeway customers will no longer be drawn to your store because of products only sold at Safeway.
  1. You have been telling us that you are concerned that wages and benefits at non-union Sobeys stores are 30 – 40 % lower than unionized stores.  This is an excellent point. As a result, members like you are saying we need to find ways to unionize the non-union Sobeys stores so that the incentive to move the business to those non-union stores is eliminated or at least reduced. You’ve told us that you want to negotiate the right to have union reps and members alike be given uninterrupted access to speak with non-union Sobeys employees about the benefits of joining your union. This is commonly known as a “neutrality agreement”.  These neutrality agreements ensure the company does not interfere in any way with union officials or members who talk to non-union Sobeys workers – the employer remains “neutral” throughout, allowing workers to make up their own minds about the benefits of belonging to Alberta’s largest private sector union, UFCW 401.
  1. You’ve told us you want your union to work hard to ensure that there is a reasonable measure of job security.  You don’t want Safeway stores to close, be franchised, or be off-loaded.  Safeway is an excellent brand, enjoys amazing locations, has very valuable real estate, is highly productive, and has a well-trained and knowledgeable work force.  Even though there has been a downturn in the economy, Sobeys should hang on to these stores to enjoy the prosperity that will inevitably return to Alberta.
  1. Many of you have said you yearn for Sobeys to invest in Safeway stores.  Safeway is, thanks in no small part to workers like you, a great business and a fantastic brand and has been deeply respected by consumers with its long history in Alberta.  Sobeys made a big mistake by eliminating Safeway’s house brands such as “Lucerne” and “Safeway Select” and underestimated customer loyalty to these brands.  These house brands distinguished Safeway from other retail chains.  You’ve told us Safeway needs to be reinvigorated with new ideas – stores could be remodelled or reformatted for example.  Some members have even suggested Sobeys adopt a lower price model in neighbourhoods where customers tend to have lower monthly income.  In other neighbourhoods perhaps they could move to a more upscale model for consumers with more disposable income.  Regardless of the approach, you want Sobeys to invest in Safeway stores and in your job so you have a brighter future.
  1. Safeway employees want a fair wage increase.  Although reports show Sobeys has lost 2.1 billion dollars of profit in 2016 fiscal year, Safeway and Sobeys have enjoyed the Alberta boom and are still highly profitable companies.  You have worked hard and are highly productive.  Some of you have told us your partners or family members that have lost their jobs and are suffering with the economic downturn.  The cost of housing and all variety of goods is still high.  Sobeys is a huge company that is doing well and this is not a time to defeat morale by limiting wage increases.
  1. You’ve told us that you are in the best position to assist Sobeys in repairing their bungled takeover of Safeway stores, causing everyone to unnecessarily suffer.  Economists are already saying Alberta’s economy is expected to recover soon and you do not want to be locked into an Agreement that will not reward all Safeway workers when the economy starts to pick up again.
  1. Safeway’s trademark has always been customer service.  A Safeway shopper expects a clean store with well-presented products and amply stocked shelves.  You know that more hours and sufficient staffing is required to provide this experience.  Overall customer service is down and long line-ups are frequent because of a reduction of hours in all departments.  You’ve told us that morale is at an all-time low.  You are frustrated, sad, and angry with Sobeys.  We know that higher anxiety and stress levels as result of trying to get by with fewer hours and increased demands, including high expectations for worker productivity, has taken its toll on you. You know that the availability of staff to assist customers and provide products are what Safeway shoppers rely on and what keeps them coming back.

These are just a few of the ideas members like you have told us. Do you agree? Disagree?

You’ve been talking and your union has been listening.  Together we must send a strong message to Sobeys.  You’ve told us that you are ready to do this by attending meetings, wearing your “Bargaining Strong Together” buttons, and speaking with one voice.

It’s time to start thinking about what your proposals are so we can all focus on Bargaining Strong Together in 2017.  

There is also no need to wait.  Submit your proposals here with the linked button in the middle of the page that asks you to provide your thoughts and submit them for negotiations.

Don’t miss the meeting nearest to you in the coming weeks. Check out a meeting in your area