Workers at Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy voted in favor of a historic new contract that will create the highest wage increases at the Sobeys-owned stores in 25 years.
Workers at Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy in Canada have voted in favor of a historic new contract that will add over 300 full-time jobs, bring needed benefit improvements, and create the highest wage increases at the Sobeys-owned stores in 25 years.
The agreement came after 98% of participating workers voted in favor of a strike in September. The record-high voter turnout demonstrated to Sobeys that workers were ready to fight for an agreement that addresses rising inflation and reflects their dedicated work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the company was offering increases as low as less than 1% after nearly nine months of bargaining.
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Some key highlights of the new agreement include:
- The highest top rate wage increases at Sobeys stores in 25 years with retroactive pay to April 2023.
- Access to 300 new full-time jobs.
- An improved wage scale where no worker will be frozen at minimum wage.
- A night work premium of an additional $2 per hour on top of wage increases.
- No wage cap on Starbucks/Coffee Bar employees.
- Significant wage improvements for pharmacy workers.
- Vacation bridging that will enable many workers to capture up to seven weeks of vacation.
“Workers at Safeway and FreshCo Pharmacy stood up together and demanded better from their employer by delivering a 98% strike vote,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “This agreement is significant not only because it provides the highest wage increases in decades; it offers workers a pathway to more full-time work, a much-improved wage scale, and more flexibility in their schedules.”
UFCW Local 1518 represents more than 26,000 members working in the community health, hospitality, retail, grocery, industrial and professional sectors across British Columbia, Canada.
The new contract came into effect on Oct. 22.
Sobeys Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based Empire Co. Ltd. Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 131,000 people. The company is No. 19 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.