The labour landscape in Canada

It has been a tumultuous summer for labour disputes across the country.

While some Canadians have been planning summer vacations, workers have been fighting to address the affordability crisis so many of us are facing. Skyrocketing inflation and job security due to changing workplace technologies have been universal themes addressed by working Canadians.

Earlier in August, port workers in Vancouver accepted a tentative agreement after challenging negotiations that included a two-week strike that shut down 30 Canadian ports. The job action is estimated to have disrupted more than $10 billion in trade as port workers sought not only monetary gains but job security against creeping automation.

Union leaders have said workers’ key concerns relate to automation and the contracting out of maintenance work, both of which present fundamental challenges to the future of port jobs.”

Hitting more closely to home for many Local 401 members, a weeks-long strike at Metro grocery stores in Toronto looks like it may be coming to a close.

On July 29, more than 3,000 Metro grocery workers rejected a tentative offer that their union, Unifor, described as, “the best offer in decades,” in favour of going on strike for better terms.

President Hesse and Treasurer Stewart confer with legal counsel Mark Wells.

During the strike, which included the creation of secondary picket lines at Metro distribution centres and prompted an injunction by the Company that was granted, numerous Metro workers echoed the cries our Safeway members sounded during wage reopener negotiations in July.

Both sets of workers lamented that in the midst of record profits, they can’t afford to shop where they work.

Meanwhile, the CBC reported that:

A recent study from the Competition Bureau found that the country’s three largest grocers, Metro included, collectively reported more than $100 billion in sales and $3.6 billion in profits last year.

Local 401 has stood in solidarity with striking Metro workers, noting that the lack of competition identified by the Competition Bureau means the fights of all grocery workers in Canada are inevitably linked.

The retail food business is suffering a crisis of confidence. No one trusts the grocery giants. Employees, customers, and the public itself are angry. We support and congratulate the workers at 27 Metro grocery stores in Toronto who are on strike fighting for all of us. We stand in solidarity with them.

President Thomas Hesse, August 2, 2023

Finally, Windsor Salt workers have concluded a strike that started in February of 2023 with a five-year agreement.

The agreement, which includes wage increases, a signing bonus, and improvements to benefits, necessitated 192 days on the picket line that local union leadership described as having, “a huge impact on workers.”

Unifor Local 240 president Jodi Nesbitt said:

Some people had to go get alternate jobs … others had to sell homes[.]

“In my lifetime I have never seen an economic and labour landscape like the one we currently face,” reflects UFCW Local 401 President Thomas Hesse. “The consolidation of capital and company power in this country is overwhelming. Workers must be prepared to stand together and fight for what is right.”

“Here in Alberta, Local 401 will be standing with our members as we challenge companies enjoying record profits to share that success with their employees, whose very work made it possible,” concludes Hesse.

UFCW Local 401 has begun the process of preparing for unprecedented negotiations of its major collective agreements starting in 2025 and running through to 2028 against this backdrop of labour unrest in Canada and the ongoing writers’ strike in the US.