By scrolling down this page, you’ll find:
If you have any questions about any of this information, please reach out to your shop steward or Union Labour Relations Officer at 1.800.252.7975 or email@example.com.
Check back at this page for regularly updated information on a possible strike action affecting Safeway stores in Alberta.
Last week, we shared with you the company’s latest offer for a new union contract for Alberta Safeway employees. So many of you were disappointed with that offer, so in bargaining meetings this week, we pushed the company to improve it. Unfortunately, Sobeys is not interested in doing that without a push. Today, the government-appointed mediator has decided to “write out,” which under Alberta law, sets in motion the process of a strike vote by the end of this month.
In our poll of Safeway employees over the past week, nearly 80% of over 1,500 respondents said we should push for a strike vote.
The company has never taken employees seriously without a push. In fact, since 1992, we’ve had to vote to strike in all but one round of negotiations with Safeway. In that time, there’s only been one strike with Safeway – in 1997.
In other words, taking a strike vote doesn’t mean you will strike, but it is the kind of show of strength and unity that makes the company pay attention.
A strong strike vote will send a strong message to Sobeys that they need to take you seriously and will greatly improve your union bargaining committee’s leverage at the bargaining table.
If there is a positive strike vote, here’s what will happen:
While we are disappointed in the company’s perspective, we are not surprised. Sobeys has said clearly that they won’t give you what you deserve unless you push them. The only legal way for us to do that is with a strong YES vote from the membership in favour of taking strike action.
We’ve been polling you, we know what your priorities are, and we know how you feel about the company’s offer. In fact, only 14% of respondents tell us they feel Sobeys’ latest offer could be acceptable.
You have also told us clearly (by 80%) that you want us to take a strike vote in order to push the company to improve their offer. We’re listening to you, and we are now applying to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a government-supervised strike vote.
Not only is voting to strike your legal right — it’s also one of the only ways we can legally push big companies like Sobeys to listen.
Sobeys will tell you that voting in favour of a strike is a bad idea. We fully expect the company to campaign for a NO vote. After all, they want you ALL to take what only 14% of you find acceptable.
But the law is clear: the company cannot pressure or coerce you in any way to not exercise your rights. That would be an unfair labour practice and a violation of labour laws. Please let us know immediately if management or anyone acting on their behalf pressures you in any way not to exercise your right to take a strike vote for something better.
Again, a strong strike vote will send a strong message to Sobeys that they need to take you seriously. 14% is an abysmal approval rating. It’s time to make sure we’re wearing our union buttons to let everyone know we’re united!
For many of you, this situation may seem new and perhaps a little daunting, but the possibility of a strike is something we’ve been communicating about for many months. And we’ve done this before!
In the coming days, we’ll be sending out further information covering the key outstanding issues and more extensive information about strike votes and how they can help us get the deal we deserve.
For your convenience, we’ve provided extensive information about strikes, picketing, and picket pay on our website at www.gounion.ca/strikeprep. This information will be continually updated.
Due to physical distancing restrictions, we will be holding information sessions on the company’s offer via Telephone Town Hall. These meetings will include details about the offer as well as information on what happens after the strike vote.
Please call 1.800.252.7975 if you need to update your contact information. If you miss our call, UFCW Local 401 members can participate online at http://www.gounion.ca/tth
Strike votes are supervised by the Alberta Labour Relations Board. Only UFCW Local 401 members working at Safeway can vote, and you must vote in person. Eligibility rules are available from the Alberta Labour Relations Board here: http://www.alrb.gov.ab.ca/bulletins/votingrules.pdf
All those who attend the voting locations are required to wear a mask while in line or in the voting area. We will provide masks to any member who does not have their own.
You can vote at any of the following locations in the province:
|Brooks||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Union Office|
(631A Sutherland Drive)
|Calgary||Thursday, June 25|
Friday, June 26
|10 AM – 8 PM||Calgary North|
(2620 – 32 Avenue NE)
(135 Southland Drive)
Nakiska Conf. Room
|Camrose||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Ramada by Wyndham|
(4702 – 73 Street)
|Canmore||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Holiday Inn|
(1 Silvertip Trail)
|Edmonton||Thursday, June 25|
Friday, June 26
|10 AM – 8 PM||Edmonton North|
Chateau Nova Yellowhead
13920 Yellowhead Trail
Holiday Inn & Conf. Centre
(4485 Gateway Blvd)
|Fort McMurray||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Stonebridge Hotel|
(9713 Hardin Street)
|Grande Prairie||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Pomeroy Hotel|
(11633 – 100 Street)
|Hinton||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Ramada by Wyndham|
(149 Woodley Drive)
|Lethbridge||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Holiday Inn Lethbridge|
(2375 Mayor Magrath Dr S)
|Lloydminster||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Holiday Inn|
(5612 – 44 Street)
|Medicine Hat||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||Holiday Inn Express|
(#9 Strachan Bay)
|Red Deer||Thursday, June 25||10 AM – 8 PM||UFCW 401 Union Office|
(#1, 4646 Riverside Drive)
|Wetaskiwin||Friday, June 26||10 AM – 8 PM||UFCW Roving Voting Station|
(Parking lot off 40th Ave and 56 Street)
Your union bargaining committee needs to hear from you. We’ve put together a quick survey for you that asks three key questions:
A printable version of this information is available here.
After more than a year of face-to-face negotiations with Sobeys, the company continues to offer little in the way of a fair deal for its hard-working Safeway employees in Alberta. In fact, the company continues to seek major concessions that would worsen things for Alberta Safeway employees while also pushing to introduce a discount FreshCo banner. Check out our website for an extensive listing of updates on our bargaining process so far.
It’s time to take a stand. Below is some key information about strikes, picketing, and picket pay specifically for Alberta Safeway employees. If you have any questions about this information, please reach out to your Union Labour Relations Officer at 1.800.252.7975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strikes usually come about as part of a legally-protected process called “collective bargaining.” This is where a group of workers – represented by a union – negotiate with an employer about their terms and conditions of employment (i.e. wages, benefits, hours, etc.), all of which are set out in a “collective agreement,” sometimes called a “union contract.”
A strike is a step in the negotiations process whereby workers exercise their legal right to stop showing up for work until their employer takes their issues and concerns seriously.
Strikes and strike votes are also ways to show workers’ resolve, strength, and unity at the bargaining table. They are often a last resort, after conversations between the union and company at the bargaining table have reached an impasse. While 95% of union contracts are resolved without a strike, sometimes such actions are necessary in order to achieve our bargaining goals. In Alberta, union members can only vote to strike after a mediator has been involved in the process.
In a unionized workplace, it is your legal right to strike, and you cannot be penalized by your employer for participating in a lawful strike or picket line. When a strike is over, you have the right to return to your job.
Lawful picket line activity can involve many things. Among them, you have the right to stand in front of your workplace and other places connected to your employer’s business (eg. non-union Sobeys stores). You can engage with customers of the business and encourage them to support you by not shopping at stores operated by your employer until you get a fair contract. It can take some courage to picket, but it’s your right.
You have the right to carry a sign and “demonstrate” to get your message out to the public. You have the right to talk to your family, friends, and neighbours about supporting you. The public, customers, and the union community can boycott your employer’s business until a deal is reached. You have the right to tell the public about what it’s like doing the work you do and why you should be better appreciated by the company you work for.
Picketing is not all doom and gloom. Picket lines can and should be fun. Most importantly, you will find such activities build support and solidarity among co-workers for years later. Leaders and friendships emerge. We find common cause, get to know each other better, and learn to stand together. Strikes can often build a stronger union.
While unionized workers have the option of a strike to achieve their bargaining goals, employers have a similar tool: a lockout. Normally, this involves the employer stopping employees from working by shutting down the business until employees accept the company’s demands. This is often seen as a bully tactic used to pressure employees to accept concessions or takeaways.
A strike vote can sometimes be viewed as a “self-defence” against a lockout. A strong strike vote can deter any appetite the company has for a lockout because they become aware of the resolve and unity of employees to achieve their bargaining objectives.
Just the act of taking a strike vote can make employers think twice about ignoring the concerns of employees. Just knowing you are willing to walk out can remind an employer of the pivotal role workers play in the success of any business. There is no business without the work you do.
If we can’t reach a fair contract – even with the assistance of a government-appointed mediator – we will take the decision to strike back to you. This is done through a secret ballot vote and is a process regulated by the Alberta Labour Relations Board. A strike vote must pass by a majority of those who vote.
Prior to any vote, we will have union meetings (with consideration for physical distancing) to explain the issues in dispute. It is imperative that everyone affected participate in these meetings and votes.
Remember, a successful strike vote does not always lead to strike action. Sometimes just taking a strike vote is enough to push a company to get serious in bargaining. But we must prepare for the worst. An actual strike is a real possibility.
A strike involves sacrifice. It’s not just about picketing. There are often financial difficulties as well. Generally, it is our goal to offer a strike benefit that is close to what you are taking home while at work. It shouldn’t be more than that amount, but it should be close. The bottom line is: we want to support our members if they have decided they want to stand up.
When it became clear that Sobeys was not moving on its major concessions in bargaining, we started preparing for the possibility of a strike with Sobeys. In October 2019, we conducted a Strike Pay Needs Assessment survey of Alberta Safeway employees and received thousands of responses.
We also established a Strike Pay Committee comprised of Safeway union members, who would consider the needs outlined and put together a strike pay system that they felt was both fair and feasible. That strike pay committee met over a number of months and developed a recommendation on what picket pay for Safeway employees should be. That was later endorsed by the UFCW Local 401 Executive Board, an elected body comprised of UFCW union members from across Alberta.
Our Strike Pay Committee has recommended, and our Executive Board has endorsed, the following picket pay amounts and picketing requirements in the event of a possible strike at Safeway in Alberta:
|Status||Picketing Required||Picket Pay|
|Full-time||5 x 8-hour shifts||$440 per week tax-free|
|Part-time (32 hrs/wk)||4 x 8-hour shifts||$352 per week tax-free|
|Part-time||4 x 6-hour shifts||$264 per week tax-free|
It’s important to remember that picket pay is not a wage, nor is it taxable. What you get is what you take home. The purpose of picket pay is to assist you in replacing your income as much as possible while you take your stand. If it is not enough, often union members find other jobs to help supplement what they receive from picketing.
No! You will never have to pay back any of the strike pay, and you will not have to pay union dues while on strike or while locked out.
A strike can be a scary thing, but your union representatives are here to discuss, confidentially, any concerns you may have. We want to make sure you understand your rights, and we’ll make all reasonable efforts to help you out. Financial problems that came about before a strike are not covered, but our view is that no union member should lose their home, be unable to pay their rent, or suffer any undue hardship as a direct result of a labour dispute.
We recommend that you stock up on any prescription drugs and have dental work done prior to the start of a strike. However, we will pay the cost of any necessary dental, emergency prescription, and/or life insurance premiums for those who qualified prior to the beginning of the strike.
While a positive strike vote doesn’t mean there will be a strike, it is wise to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Planning for a strike or a lockout will ensure you’re not scrambling at the last minute to make arrangements.
The picket pay we provide as a union far exceeds that of most other unions, but maybe it’s not enough to keep things going. It’s good to prepare now.
Things you can do to prepare:
A strong picket line is critical for a strike to be successful for workers. A decision to strike is also a democratic decision that should be supported and not betrayed.
That’s why, as a union, we put our resources towards supporting each other to stand together and stand strong when we need to.
But we all have different situations and sometimes different perspectives about things. Some may want to picket 50 hours per week. Some only 20 hours per week. Some may not be willing or able to picket on a regular basis. Some may not picket at all for whatever reason. That’s ok!
You can still support your co-workers who will picket by doing any of the following:
There are other options, too. Let’s talk about your situation to see if we can work together towards an accommodation that respects and helps our collective bargaining objectives.
ONE THING IS FOR SURE, THOUGH…
YOU DO NOT NEED TO CROSS A PICKET LINE TO MEET FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS
Never cross a picket line, especially your own. A “scab” is a person who either:
The stigma of being a scab often follows people around even at other jobs, and scabs are susceptible to fines and other penalties. Crossing a picket line violates union rules, and those who do so could face serious repercussions.
Having said that, this is YOUR union and YOUR picket line. YOU are key to its success.
Together is how we work to achieve better wages, benefits, and conditions of employment. We only win if we stick together!