Loblaw is struggling to renegotiate contracts with Ontario workers

Loblaw is struggling to renegotiate contracts with Ontario workers

Loblaw has responded to a statement made yesterday by a number of UFCW Canada unions in Ontario giving them permission to authorise a strike if talks fail to produce an agreement.

Loblaw vice president of public relations Julija Hunter said: "We are hopeful that the union will continue to negotiate. Our desire is for an outcome that will allow us to continue to service our loyal customers, while ensuring a sustainable business model in which we can support our employees and colleagues."

The company argued that in many cases it pays 10% more than its competitors and have 15% less flexibility. "That's not sustainable," Hunter said.

The union said the new contract would impose availability rules on part-time workers that would make it very difficult for them to hold another part-time job or even, in the case of students, attend school.

The company said it needs operational flexibility to run its stores more efficiently and effectively in order to ensure it remains as competitive as possible, and can remain active in markets where its non-union competition is fierce and growing.

"In Ontario, 2011 will be a watershed year for our industry with more non-unionised labour than unionised labour for the first time, based on footage added. We require modifications to our existing agreements in order for Loblaw to remain competitive, specifically in context of other retailers who have a growing number of non-union employees and who are competing head-to-head in key marketplaces," Hunter said.

She added that the union may also want to consider the implications and the long-term impact on their membership of this growing trend of non-union employees at grocery retailers, and work with us to ensure we remain competitive, which will advance the unions' long-term interests.