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Manitoba Safeway Workers Vote 97 per cent in Favour of Strike

Strong strike mandate for union negotiating committee when talks resume Monday.

UFCW members who work for Safeway in Manitoba have voted 99 per cent to reject the company's latest offer - 97 per cent in favour of strike action if necessary. The voting took place at meetings held throughout Manitoba from October 24 to 26. Local 832 President Robert Ziegler said that the company must now deal with the reality of a strike that could begin as early as November 15, immediately following the expiry of the current agreement.

"Right from the beginning, our members have been very clear that they want a fair settlement," he said. "Safeway isn't taking our issues seriously. This may help them get down to more serious talks.
At the present time, all major issues - including wages and benefits - remain on the bargaining table. The union has repeatedly told the company that a new agreement must be reached before the current contract expires, or a strike against all Manitoba Safeway stores could begin as early as November 15.

"Up to this point, the company has not demonstrated any willingness to bargain seriously," Ziegler said. "If the company had their way, we'd be bargaining for the next six months. We're not prepared to let that happen. The strike vote results should send the company the message that a strike will take place if they continue on this course."

The next step towards a strike or new contract will be taken on Monday when talks resume. They will continue each and every day until the November 13 expiration of the contract. It's expected that membership meetings will then be held on November 14, either to vote on a proposed settlement, or to reject the company's then current offer - with the likelihood of a strike starting as early as the following day.

Safeway is still demanding an agreement that includes a reduction in the full-time ratio from the present 25 per cent to 14 per cent through attrition, tier two employees receiving full-time status ahead of regular part-time and changes in the Declaration of Availability that would give members less freedom in their hours of work.

For its part, the UFCW Local 832 negotiating committee is demanding improvements to wages and premiums, health and welfare benefits, scheduling of hours, and the workers' quality of life.

The union has two advantages in the talks right now. First is that the collective agreement expires November 13, on the eve of the busiest season of the year for the company. Safeway has also announced extensive plans for restructuring and expansion in Manitoba, to the tune of some $16 million. A strike or any kind of work stoppage at this point is the last thing the company wants or needs.

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