Union: Most Safeway staff will see pay cut under FreshCo banner - InfoNews

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Union: Most Safeway staff will see pay cut under FreshCo banner

June 06, 2019 - 6:30 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Most Safeway employees who opt to keep working at the supermarket once it becomes a FreshCo will be doing so with a major pay cut.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1518 secretary-treasurer Patrick Johnson told iNFOnews.ca FreshCo workers earn considerably less cash than Safeway employees, even though the supermarkets are owned by the same parent company.

"The Safeway contract is far superior to the FreshCo contract," Johnson said, adding it was a "drastically different collective agreement."

Sobeys announced June 4, that three Safeway stores in the Interior would be closing and reopening as FreshCo stores. Slated for the change is the Dilworth Safeway store in Kelowna, Sahali store in Kamloops and the downtown Vernon. All will close Nov. 23 to allow work on the conversion to start.

An earlier media release said the company plans to convert 25 per cent of its underperforming Safeway's into FreshCo's over the next four years.

Johnston said the changes would have a "devastating impact" to workers and their families if they weren't able to retain their original Safeway contract.

While both Safeway and FreshCo employees are unionized, collective agreements vary greatly. Details of what FreshCo has to offer its newly absorbed workforce was decided by an arbitrator in December 2018.

Johnson said only 25 per cent of FreshCo employees will be able to keep their Safeway contracts if they qualify.

Other employees will be given several options: Transfer to another Safeway store; depending on the length of service and seniority some staff will be offered severance pay, or take a one-time payment and then work for FreshCo on a new contract for less pay.

Infonews.ca asked Sobeys whether the rebranding was done so the firm could then pay its staff less but the company didn't answer the question, instead emailing a statement that said they were "sincerely grateful" for their employees’ commitment and dedicated service to Safeway.

"We will be working closely with impacted employees and their respective unions in the coming weeks to provide support and ensure the terms of their collective agreements are met," they said.

While UFCW Local 1518 covers the majority of staff working in Safeway, meat and deli staff are represented by Local 247, who said they didn't speak to the media.

According to the media release Sobeys parent Empire Company Ltd, has assets of over $9-billion and employs 125,000 people.

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