Negotiations continued with Loblaw for UFCW 247 members employed at Real Canadian Superstores and Distribution Centers (DC) last week. The retail group met for four days and the DC committee met for three. In both cases it was the first opportunity to get into the monetary proposals. Monetary items are those that carry a cost and typically you deal with the non-monetary items first. Examples of these would be language or wording changes, scheduling issues, etc.
We have prepared the following question-&-answer report to best update our members on the current negotiation process:
1) What happened over the four days?
Because the monetary issues had been set aside and not discussed up until this point, the Union Committees went through and provided explanation on what we are seeking and the background on each proposal. There was a lot of back and forth on costing, the importance of each proposal and the impact of some of the non-monetary issues we had already dealt with on some of the monetary items. The initial talks on the cost items are often frustrating as there is a greater link between these proposals. Getting money in one area certainly impacts obtaining money in another area. The Union Committee spent a significant amount of time debating items and attempting to steer the Employer in the right direction.
2) Why is this taking so long? When will we have a deal?
Each set of Negotiations is unique but typically when you start getting into the comprehensive offers on the money items, things either proceed quickly or you stall out. We have asked the Company to present us a full monetary offer at the beginning of our next meeting dates. That will go a long way towards knowing if we think a settlement is obtainable or not. We want a good fair deal as soon as possible but we are dealing with some complex issues that take time. Normally, we would go into negotiations seeking wage increases to existing scales. This time we are seeking to drastically change the scales through greater access to higher rates, merging some and eliminating others. These are much more complicated discussions.
3) When are you meeting again?
We are awaiting confirmation of further dates in February. There has been some turnover on the Employer committee that has impacted their availability. We are ready to take any dates they give us
4) This won’t take as long as the Alberta Bargaining, will it?
The negotiations between Loblaw and Local 401 in Alberta were delayed due to other retail bargaining the Union was involved in that may have impacted the Loblaw negotiations. We are not in that same scenario.
5) Why don’t we just take a strike vote and pressure them into giving us what we want?
At this point we have yet to see a full offer that contemplates our wage demands. This is what we will see at our next meetings. If we don’t believe the Company is taking our asks seriously, we will certainly explore the option of holding a strike vote to send the Employer a message. We will use any means necessary to get the best possible settlement.
6) Why didn’t we start negotiations before the current agreement expired?
Actually, we began exploratory negotiations over a year before the agreement expired. The retail side of the Loblaw Corporation backed away from the table prior to beginning financial discussions due to the then unknown financial impact of Covid-19.
"We know that members want to see faster progress and this lengthy process can be frustrating; our goal is to get the best deal possible, not a quick deal that does not serve our members well" concluded President Dan Goodman.