Safeway Members Talk Timing

We need your guidance, and we’re going to call you.

In our preparations for face-to-face negotiations with Sobeys, we have emphasized transparency as a means for building trust. We have consulted and prepared, proposals are in the final editing phase, and your union negotiating team is trained and ready to meet with Sobeys at a moment’s notice.

But we don’t want to substitute our view of the landscape for yours. We know there are lots of perspectives out there, and we want to continue to hear them. At this juncture, we really want to hear from you about the timing of negotiations. That’s why we’re planning a Telephone Town Hall at the following date and time:


TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2018
7:00 PM

There are many good reasons to push for bargaining

The Alberta economy is stabilizing, and in some ways, it seems to be rebounding. Consumer spending is on the rise. Our union is ready to go: our committee is strong and energized, and our Good Groceries campaign has been well-received and is earning much support for our cause from customers and the public.

There are also many good reasons not to push for bargaining

Leadership at Sobeys has been unpredictable. Even in the last few weeks, there have been some changes at the top. The company’s reaction to unions is virtually unknown; they haven’t been tested in the way we may have to test them. Their reaction to a fierce approach on our part cannot be predicted, and as a multi-billion-dollar corporation, they shouldn’t be underestimated.

The labour relations environment in Alberta is not good in its negotiations outcomes right now. Public servants aren’t getting raises. The British Columbia agreement remains unsettled, and the other agreements reached by Sobeys in other provinces, from our Alberta perspective, aren’t that good. While in the long-term the new minimum wage is really good for workers, its impact has some unpredictable immediate impacts on collective bargaining. Some want to see whether employers take an angry perspective to the increases, or whether they adopt a positive, forward-thinking approach that recognizes that wage increases for working people tend to stimulate economic activity.

Uncertainty makes many Safeway union members nervous, and some don’t want to risk negotiations. Some are saying, if it’s not broken, let’s not try to fix it until we have to.

There’s a lot that we don’t know and that we need to discuss together

By far, the factor that overrides all others is the perspective and strength of Safeway union members in Alberta. ARE WE STRONG?

It’s like this: we’re ready. But we need to know: is now the time?

It’s a hard question to answer. Many are of the view that we should jump to negotiations. We love and are encouraged by this enthusiasm. But we have to ask: does everyone else feel this way?

It’s important to respect the input of those who may not have an eager or militant approach, and we need to hear from as many voices as possible. A cautious approach is not a sign of weakness or that a person doesn’t care; it simply means holding on to our fighting spirit for a more effective moment.

Let’s talk about timing!

We are planning a Telephone Town Hall where we will discuss the context and issues surrounding the pros and cons of pressing for bargaining with Sobeys.

The Telephone Town Hall is an easy and popular phone call format, and we’ve used it before. I will be hosting the Telephone Town Hall together with President Douglas O’Halloran. You’ll get a call from us inviting you to participate, and you won’t have to leave the comfort of your own home.

In the weeks after the call, THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL EMAIL OPINION POLL, where participants will be invited to answer questions like:

  1. Do you believe we should push for bargaining dates with Sobeys now?
  2. Do you believe your coworkers are ready to adopt a strong posture with the company and give us a strong strike vote if necessary?

We’ll be conducting the poll by email, so please ensure you have given us your correct email details.

If you – or a co-worker you know – don’t have easy access to email let them know they can always just call their Union Labour Relations Officer to let them know their perspective on the issue.

We really need your guidance on how to navigate these next steps.

In Solidarity,

Tom Hesse
Chief Union Negotiator

April Albrecht, Joe Attwood, and Michael Hughes
Bargaining Team Leads