Union officials press Safeway management for answers

FreshCo Fear

In recent weeks, employees at six Alberta Safeway stores were informed that their stores will be closing and being converted into FreshCo’s. There is special contract language in your new union contract to deal with this situation.

Unfortunately, Safeway has again disappointed its employees. In many ways, Safeway hasn’t complied with what they agreed to do in these circumstances.

The union’s response?

We’ve dispatched ten union representatives to work with employees whose stores are being converted. Those representatives have been guiding Safeway union members through the conversion process. They’ve given them advice, they’ve told them what they know, and they’ve told them what they don’t know.

But fundamentally, those representatives have been there to have your back. Additionally, a new phase of this process is commencing.

President Thomas Hesse, Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart, and Southern Director Ricardo Demenezes on a Zoom call pressing Safeway for answers about the conversion process and members’ rights.

Last week, President Thomas Hesse, Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart, Southern Director Ricardo Demenezes, and Northern Director Larry Zima assembled a team of union representatives to confront Safeway.

There are two problems here.

The first problem is about how Safeway has screwed this process up thus far. The next problem is a question: will Safeway continue to screw this up into the future?

Who’s getting hurt?

Employees in stores that are being converted have had to make difficult choices in a confusing and challenging environment.

Some have opted to take a buyout. Others have decided to work at a converted FreshCo.

Yet others have indicated they want to bump into other stores. But where will they end up? They don’t know and they’re scared.

Other union members are scared too. Employees in stores that aren’t getting converted worry that they’re going to get bumped out! What are their rights? Will they have jobs?

Here’s some data for you to consider:

  • At the Saddle Ridge Calgary Store 8909, our investigation reveals that 29 employees want to bump into another store.
  • At the Brentwood Calgary Store 8813, 24 people want to bump.
  • At the St. Alberta Store 8859, 30 workers are looking to bump.
  • At the Cromdale Edmonton Store 8866, 41 employees want to bump.
  • At the Edmonton Pallisades Store 8889, 29 employees want to bump into another store.
  • Finally, 15 employees from the Edmonton Millbourne Mall Store 8908 are looking to bump.

At last week’s meeting, President Hesse and Secretary Treasurer Stewart demanded a clear and fair rollout of collective agreement rights in the coming weeks for both those who want to bump and those who risk being bumped.

Both groups of workers have rights and both groups of workers need to have their rights protected.

We’re awaiting Safeway’s answers to a number of issues we’ve raised. Please be reassured that we’re going to be there for both groups who are being impacted.

A few final pieces of news.

We have now made an application to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench to overturn what we believe to be an unfair decision made by an Alberta arbitrator regarding the new FreshCo agreement for stores that will be converted.

Additionally, when questioned on Friday by President Hesse, Sobeys indicated that they have applied to the Government of Alberta for the $1200 pandemic bonus.

However, we were disappointed when Sobeys made it clear that they weren’t interested in extending that bonus to workers who made more than $25 per hour or did not meet other government requirements.

It is important not to let Sobeys off the hook for this failure and to stand in solidarity with and back up your fellow union members who are not eligible for the government bonus.

It’s also important not to let the Alberta government off the hook. We urge you to contact your MLA and ask the Alberta government to ensure that this bonus program is applied fairly to every single worker that has been courageously facing this pandemic.

Click here for a pre-written letter you can use to contact your MLA.

Your union will not stop fighting for our Safeway members as we make our way through this challenging and confusing process. We will hold Safeway to account for their failures and ensure they live up to their promises when it comes to your rights!