Chaos at Loblaws

Chaos and cruelty at Loblaws

After decades of loyalty, Loblaw workers are getting the boot

Mean-spirited policy attacks old-timers on verge of retirement

By Shannon Lee Mannion
Contributing Editor
True North Perspective
 
Have you been to your local Loblaws or Provigo (Quebec) store lately? Noticed a tomb-like silence among the staff and line-ups of impatient shoppers behind a couple of open cashier stations? Notice that the friendly, smiling faces of long-term staff are missing?
 
What is going on at our Loblaws stores?
 
In speaking with one cashier recently, she said that they were offered five options in early October and she took the buy-down in order to keep her job because otherwise, not being able to work Sundays (no transportation from her rural home, and exemption denied), she would have been fired and have received nothing. 
 
She has taken a $4.00 per hour cut and expects to lose her Blue Cross benefits but at least she has the lump sum from the buy-down. What she's anticipating is that she'll be fired anyway when she is unable to work Sunday shifts. Then she may be able to sue the store for wrongful dismissal, a harsh turn-of-events for a loyal employee of 24 years.

She said that the store apparently is going to change names and therefore a new contract was prepared. It was voted on by union membership and passed by 1% with just over a third of the members voting (37%) There was little information about voting by proxy and people were unsure about what hours ballots were allowed to be cast.

 
Apparently, 100 Loblaws employees in Kingston took buy-outs, leaving what once were well-paid jobs with benefits. This necessitated closing one store in order to keep the other open.
 
In speaking with a store employee today, she recounted that she took the so-called "economic" option which, while it safe-guards her hourly wage, bonuses and benefits, it causes havoc in her life because she has no input into her scheduling and she can be forced to work until 11:00 pm and then open next day at 7:30 am.
 
Conversely, when one 30-year employee expressed exasperation with scheduling changes, he was given only four hours of work the next week, down from 30 hours.
 
Another long-term employee is apparently 12 days from taking early retirment which given the inimical situation, he would choose to do, only management won't bend leaving him in limbo-land, trying to find a store that isn't "converting" so that he can get in those two and a half weeks.
 
The stories go on and on. What is apparent is that long-term, older staff are being discounted and disguarded, leaving Loblaws stores in "a hiring frenzy." Witness the large mobile sign at Isabella and Metcalfe advertising for part-time help and night staff.
 
My experience from several times in the past week, different from my experience of the past three decades, is that there are but bare-bones staff at Isabella and line-ups at the cashiers are dreadful. The cashiers who are on are working like Trojans. They are exhausted. One told me that she is afraid for her safety since an altercation broke out between two shoppers over who should be in the Express Lane. She thought they might turn on her or that someone in the future might take out their frustration at the lengthy waits on the cashiers.
 
Loblaws is the largest food retailer in Canada with 1,400 supermarkets that employ more than 139,000 people in stores under a variety of regional banners including: Loblaw Great Food, No Frills,  Provigo, Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore, Zehrs Markets and Fortinos. National Grocer is another alias. all of which fall under the big enchilada banner, Loblaw Companies Limited.
 
Has United Food and Commercial Workers represented their members well? Were they given a clear mandate? Apparently, there have been 900 grievances filed, so far, in Ontario.
I have gathered a little information, some dated but salient, nonetheless.
 
This is an old post (2003) but explains what happens when the stores convert:
 
237 posts (initial ones are from this month) from employees rating Loblaws as their employer:
 
Employees losing some benefits (posted Sept 16, 2011)
 
Employees, however, will also see lower returns. The Coast has been told that employees will lose all pay raises they致e received at SaveEasy and with the name change receive No Frills starting pay. [not much else about pay at this link]

http://www.thecoast.ca/RealityBites/archives/2011/08/17/dartmouth-saveeasy-to-become-a-no-frills

Loblaws considers Wal-Mart and other alternative food channels a threat and has mentioned this in its negotiations with unions, suggesting that nonunion competitors enjoy lower costs, which can be passed on to customers. There were four strikes in 2000 within the company, all of which were settled...but at what cost? 

 
Local social justice groups in Ottawa are calling for solidarity with Loblaws employees and are holding a demonstration at the store on Isabella St. at Metcalfe on Friday, November 18/11 at 2:30 pm.
 
It's our friends, neighbours, colleagues, everyone's livelihoods that are at stake.

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