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Safeway Extra Final Offer Selection: What it Means

Both UFCW Local 247 and UFCW Local 1518 has been successful in ensuring that Grid A members in Langley-Willowbrook and Dawson Creek will have grandfathering protection for wages, benefits, pensions, vacation and ATO. Additionally we have been able to protect Grid B members’ entitlement to annual off scale wages increases.

How did the Union achieve this protection?

Earlier this year Sobeys had announced plans to convert the Willowbrook (Langley) and Dawson Creek stores to the new banner (Safeway Extra). In June the Union was ordered by an arbitrator to begin talks for a new contract. Contract talks broke down in August and the disputed contract was referred to a "Final Offer Selection" (FOS) Arbitration process.

In a FOS Arbitration Process, the arbitrator must choose one of the two offers and has no ability to craft a middle ground. This forced the Union to be very careful about what to include in our offer or risk having the Employers concessionary offer selected by the Arbitrator. Our strategy in this process, which proved to be successful, was to focus on securing grandfathering protections (Safeway wages, pensions, benefits, ATO and vacation) for existing members in conversion stores.

Final Offer Selection Arbitrator Ken Saunders issued his decision on September 26th and in it he selected the Union’s offer over Sobeys’ final offer at for a first contract the Dawson Creek and Willowbrook (Langley) Safeway Extra stores.

What was Sobeys’ Management’s Final Offer?

The position put forward by Sobeys constituted a significant threat to our members if selected
as it contained number of deep concessions including:
• Elimination of Grid A wages
• Elimination of Grid A benefits
• Reductions to Pensions
• Elimination of ATO
Most significantly, Sobeys offer contained no grandfathering
or job security protections for senior employees.

We worked in consultation with our legal counsel, member representatives from the two affected stores and Local 1518 and then devised a strategy to prepare our submission to the FOS Arbitrator in a way that gave us the best chance of winning the final offer selection arbitration. This strategy was based on emphasizing the need, at the time of conversion to Safeway Extra, for protecting existing members in key areas such as Safeway wages, pensions, benefits, ATO and vacation.
In a legal and technical sense, this was a negotiation for a first contract. Although our opening bargaining position was based upon the full Safeway Operations agreement, putting forward such a position as our final offer would have proved fatal to our cause as it would have guaranteed a loss in the Final Offer Selection process.
Because the risk of having the employer final offer of deep concessions selected in its entirety was so significant, we put forward a final offer which balanced the union’s overall protection objectives against the risk of having the arbitrator prefer the employer’s very harmful final offer.

What Does it Mean for the Union to Win the Final Offer Selection Arbitration?

The good: We achieved our primary objective of protecting members by achieving grandfathering against deep concessions to their:
- Grid A and Grid B wages
- Grid A and Grid B benefits
- Preservation of ATO
- Ability for Grid A and Grid B members to transfer out of these two locations
- As well as many other deep concessions
The bad: It also means we have to have to live with many first contract standards such as:
- single store bargaining units and contracts
- additional management exclusions (compared to 2 management exclusions in the Safeway Collective Agreement)
- Three Scheduling Groups (full time, unrestricted part-time, restricted employees)
- Vendor Stocking
While these are drastic concepts to us, it should be noted that they are common in
grocery store contracts, particularly in first contracts.

What Would it Mean if We Would have Lost the Final Offer Selection?

If we would have not put forward a final position with a high chance of being selected, we would get none of the good things such as grandfathering, and all of the bad things such as first contract standards AND the employer’s deep package of concessions including cutting back existing members wages, benefits, pensions, vacation and the complete loss of ATO.
While it was not an easy decision, the union felt it would be irresponsible to put forward a position without a high probability of being selected in a first contract situation. That meant having to live with lower standards in the First Safeway Extra contract than those seen in the conventional Safeway Agreement.
As a result of this successful approach we were able to defend against Sobeys’ package of deep concessions and achieve our top priority of grandfathering of wages, benefits, pensions and ATO for our members in the 2 stores that are converting to Safeway Extra.
We were also able to achieve a voluntary severance and voluntary transfer for Grid A members which provides members with vehicle to leave the store according to their seniority. The details of the voluntary transfer and voluntary severances will be released as soon as they are made available.

  • ufcw [at] ufcw247 [dot] com