Safeway Strike

Frequently Asked Questions for meat, deli and seafood safeway members


Last updated October 18, 2023

Our bargaining committee worked hard to negotiate a new contract for UFCW Local 247 members working in the meat, deli, and seafood departments at BC Safeway stores. Over six months of talks, Sobeys, who owns Safeway, had only presented us with a wage offer that was less than 1% in some years. This was not good enough.

UFCW Local 247 members took a strike authorization vote to put their bargaining committee in the best position possible to negotiate a deal that could be recommended to our members. UFCW Local 247 members who voted in Zone 1 voted 99% in favour of authorizing our union to take strike action. We went back to the bargaining table with the company with this strong mandate in hand.

In the early hours of the morning of October 13, our bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement with Sobeys, one that our committee feels addresses many of the issues members set as priorities. Our Safeway bargaining committee is strongly recommending members vote YES to accept the agreement, as they feel it is an achievement that has something for every member.

Details of that tentative agreement were shared with members on October 16, discussed in detail in a Telephone Townhall Meeting held that evening, and posted on our website. Bargaining committee members have been talking about the Tentative Agreement with members in the stores, and answering their frequently asked questions about the agreement.

While we are currently in the process of voting on the tentative agreement, we must still be prepared for any outcome. The information provided below is still relevant. If the tentative agreement is not accepted, we could be in a strike situation, so it is important for us to stay connected and informed about what a strike (or lockout) might involve.

If anyone is not receiving our updates, tell them to get connected with us by sending an email to or phoning toll-free 1-800-667-2205 and provide their full name, employee number, store number, email address, and cell phone number.

Our bargaining updates are available on our website here:

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions; be sure to check back here, as we update this information regularly:

What is a strike?
A strike is when union members collectively withdraw their labour – that is, they stop coming to work as a way of pressuring their employer to see bargaining issues their way. What this usually looks like is union members forming legal picket lines outside their workplaces to draw attention to their job action and engage the public about their issues. Striking workers usually refuse to come back to work until they receive a contract offer from their employer that they find acceptable.

Strikes are a powerful tool used by unionized workers in contract negotiations. We know that when an employer knows that its workers are prepared to strike to achieve their demands, they are more inclined to negotiate fairly.

What is a lockout?

If a strike is what workers can do to pressure their employer to seeing things their way, a lockout is the same kind of tool used by employers. A lockout is when an employer puts pressure on employees by not allowing them to go to work and temporarily closing their operations.

Both strikes and lockouts are forms of job action and are perfectly legal and regulated under the BC Labour Relations Code.

In either a strike or lockout situation, UFCW Local 247 members will have the support of their union and will have the chance to picket and receive picket pay (see below).

Being on strike or being locked out DOES NOT mean you will lose your job or be laid off. It also does not mean your workplace will be closed permanently. Again, both strikes and lockouts are perfectly legal.

What is a strike authorization vote, and did we take one?
A union can only legally issue strike notice in BC if its members have democratically authorized it to do so. A strike authorization vote authorizes our union to have the option to serve strike notice if we are unable to reach an agreement. A strike authorization vote is also a strong show of solidarity from the members to their union bargaining committee, helping them to return to the bargaining table with a strong mandate of support. The bargaining committee can then push Sobeys to make a better offer.

Our 99% strike authorization vote was a key factor in pushing Sobeys to greatly improve their contract offer to our members in this latest round of bargaining.

Does this mean we are automatically going on strike?
No, a strike authorization vote is an escalation in the bargaining process. It does not mean we will automatically issue strike notice. Ultimately, our committee is fighting for a fairer deal for Safeway members. After the strike authorization vote, we returned to the bargaining table and were well prepared to show Sobeys we were serious about our demands. Our goal was to reach an agreement without having to serve strike notice, and our committee did just that.

What is the process of having a legal strike in BC?
In BC, unionized workers have the right to legally strike their employers. Striking is considered lawful union activity, and union members who lawfully strike and picket normally return to their jobs once a strike is over and work resumes. With those rights come responsibilities. A strike involves everyone at a workplace, so the decision to strike must be a democratic one. A union cannot serve strike notice on an employer unless union members have voted in favour of taking strike action.

There is also a notice period before a strike can take place. In BC, a legal strike cannot commence until at least 72 hours have passed since the union has provided notice to the employer. When perishable goods are involved, this notice period can be extended through an employer’s application to the BC Labour Relations Board. We’ll keep you posted on any strike notice being served and what that might mean in terms of time frames. A strike normally ends when a contract has been reached with the company and union members have voted to accept it.

The same rules apply in the case of a lockout: an employer has to serve notice of a lockout on the union before it can legally lockout its employees.

If we are in a labour dispute, will I receive picket pay while on strike?
UFCW 247 members will receive picket pay so long as they show up to their picket shifts. The picket pay structure for UFCW 247 members at Safeway is:

  • Full-time members: $450 per week for at least 24 hours of picketing
  • Part-time members: $350 per week for at least 18 hours of picketing

There are some important rules to be aware of about picket pay:

  • Picket pay is not a wage – it is a form of financial aid available to union members involved in a legal labour dispute with their employer
  • Picket pay is TAX-FREE, so what you see above is what you would take home so long as you picket the required minimum hours
  • Picket pay will be paid weekly. Cheques would be picked up by picketers through their assigned Picket Captains

In accordance with the UFCW International Constitution, financial aid is only payable to union members who have been on strike or locked out for at least 14 days in succession. Also in accordance with the Constitution, there is no picket pay for the first 7 days of a strike or lockout. Unions often encourage members to find alternate employment to supplement any loss of income during a labour dispute.

Picket captains will work with members on scheduling their picketing hours, with consideration for our need to ensure coverage is maintained at all picketing locations. If you need a special arrangement to accommodate a second job while also picketing, we will work with you.

Alternative duties may be available for members who are unable to walk a picket line.

I have already booked my vacation. Will I get paid for my vacation?  
When a strike is called, the provisions of the Collective Agreement are suspended, and this includes vacation pay. That said, you won’t LOSE vacation because you went on strike. During a dispute, if you need to take time away from the picket line, you can (without picket pay).

When the dispute ends, the Collective Agreement will be back in force, and you will still be entitled to your vacation time and pay.

If I am on paid sick leave, what happens to my pay?
Sick leave payments are provided by insurance carriers. If you are currently receiving benefits pay and still qualify for paid sick leave as defined under your Benefit Plan or EI, you would continue to receive those benefits. The same goes for Maternity or Parental Leave. If you are receiving those benefits, you should continue to receive those EI payments.

Who runs the picket lines?
Should a dispute seem inevitable, we will immediately train Picket Captains for each picket location. Picket Captains are your fellow members and workplace leaders who will be specifically trained to handle issues on the line related to picket pay, scheduling, amenities, media relations, and other important duties.

Any Safeway member interested in taking on the role of Picket Captain is asked to please let us know by emailing

How else can I prepare for a possible strike?
While we are several steps away from a possible strike, it’s never too early to start preparing. UFCW Canada has created Being Prepared, a helpful guide with steps to take well in advance of a possible strike. It includes general information about labour disputes, how to prepare financially (notifying your bank and creditors, for example), and general rules around picketing.

How long will the strike last? How does a strike end?
We don’t know exactly how long a dispute could last—no one does. But we are several steps away from this. Ultimately, bargaining should end with an agreement—one that both sides can ratify (that means the Employer and the Union members). And if that happens before a dispute… great!   If not, a dispute may be necessary, but it will ultimately end with a new agreement for our Safeway members in BC.
If our strike successfully shows the employer that we will not back down until we get what we deserve, the hope is that the strike will end with a better contract that addresses members’ priorities.

When was the Zone 1 strike authorization vote?
Our Zone 1 Strike Vote was held on September 19-20, and 99% of UFCW Local 247 members who voted authorized taking strike action if necessary to secure a fair deal. This was a massive effort and achievement of our members and an immensely important expression of solidarity and unity in the stores.

Who voted in a strike authorization vote?
All active UFCW 247 members who work in the meat, deli, and seafood departments in Safeway stores in Zone 1 (Lower Mainland – working in stores from Hope to Whistler) had the right to vote, as they would be the workers who would be involved in an eventual strike. This includes anyone who is on probation.

Voting YES means that you support your bargaining committee’s recommendation to authorize a strike and demand a better contract than what Sobeys is offering.

Members not in Zone 1 (outside the Lower Mainland) will have many opportunities to support their fellow union members, who will rely on your solidarity to fight for the best possible deal for all Safeway workers.

Will anyone know how I voted?
No! Your vote is confidential! Neither your coworkers nor anyone else will know how you voted.  Unless you share how you voted with them, no one will know.

My store is in Zone 2. What does taking action look like for me in my store?
Not all Safeway meat, deli, and seafood members have the ability to formally strike. In the coming weeks, if we are in a strike situation, we will be providing other ways members in Zone 2 can show their solidarity and support throughout BC and throughout UFCW Local 247.

We also encourage Zone 2 members to contact us at if there are ways they would like to get involved in supporting Zone 1 members.

If we are on strike at my location but other unions are not able to strike, what will happen?
While we speak with other unions in solidarity, we should never speak for them.

We know there are unions dealing with different circumstances than ours (i.e. a store that is less than 10 years old has different rules about striking for other unions), but we are also aware that UFCW Local 1518 has advised their members that, if we or the Bakers’ union serve strike notice at any store, UFCW Local 1518 members would not cross our picket line and they would receive picket pay.

Members of other unions affected by a strike should always thoroughly review information being shared with them by their union.

Where can I find more information about whether we will go on strike? How can I keep up to date with negotiations?
We will provide members with all the information they need to make an informed decision well ahead of job action. Union representatives and bargaining committee members will visit stores to keep members updated and answer your questions, and as always, we will continue to keep members updated via emails, telephone town halls and the Safeway Bargaining Page.

Ensure that your contact info with us is up to date by visiting our website.

As always, please talk to your co-workers and ensure that anyone who is not receiving union emails updates their contact info with us. Tell them to email or phone toll-free 1-800-667-2205 and provide their full name, employee number, store number, email address, and cell phone number.

How can I get more involved?
At this key stage, the best thing members can do is become informed, get connected with their union, and spread the word in the stores. If anyone is not receiving our updates, tell them to get connected with us by contacting us to update their phone number and email.  Don’t hesitate to be in touch with your shop steward and/or union rep to make sure you know the latest information. If you have a question, please ask it – we guarantee there are others with the same questions.

In advance of a possible strike situation, we are preparing Picket Captain Training. Any Safeway member interested in taking on the role of Picket Captain is asked to please let us know by emailing