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Three thousand workers at Safeway stores in the Lower Mainland have voted 98% in favour of a strike madate for their union local, currently in negotiations with Safeway's parent company Sobeys. "Our members are sending Sobeys a message loud and clear," said Kim Novak, President of UFCW Local 1518, "they’re united and prepared to take action if the employer refuses to move on the insulting wage offer that led us to take a strike vote in the first place."
Safeway has 40 stores in the Lower Mainland, many of them longstanding stores in prime locations across the region. Previously the wholy owned subsidiary of a U.S. parent company, Safeway Canada was purchased by Sobeys in 2013 and absorbed into the Empire Company conglomerate which also owns Farm Boy, IGA, Thriftys and numerous other grocery store chains.
Empire is one of the 'big 5' Canadian food monopolists (together with Loblaws, Metro, Wallmart and Costco) who control 80% of sales in Canada. They were one of the companies implicated in the bread price fixing scandal of 2018, in which the grocery monopolists conspired to inflate the price of bread across their stores to pad their profits. Last year they posted $750 million in net earnings on $30 billion in sales while working class people struggled to keep pace with out of control grocery prices.
Last month workers at Metro grocery stores in the Greater Toronto Area struck for more than a month, winning a wage increase significantly higher than the 1% currently being offered by Sobeys/Empire to Lower Mainland Safeway workers.
The union is finishing its first round of negotiations with Sobeys on September 29th.