Safeway stores to reopen

A tumultuous 16-month Safeway strike that saw the company threaten to close its three local stores permanently has come to an abrupt and startling end after workers voted to accept a new deal from the grocery chain.
“We are very pleased we could reach a settlement,” Canada Safeway president Chuck Mulvenna said in a statement.
About 300 workers voted more than 90 percent in favour of a new 44-month contract this weekend, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union local 175.
When the strike began Oct. 1, 2001, about 110 full-time and 340 part-time employees walked off their jobs at the three stores.
The stores were closed and boarded up after workers rejected a contract offer last June. At the time, Mulvenna had warned closures could be permanent if there wasn’t a speedy resolution to the labour dispute.
The company estimated the first half of the labour dispute alone had cost more than $7.5 million in lost business from the three city stores.
Union official John Fuller said workers will be able to reclaim about 65 full-time and 200 part-time jobs as the stores begin to reopen in the coming weeks.
More jobs likely will become available as sales at the long-vacant stores increase, he noted.
Over the next few days, the union is to meet with workers to determine who wants to take buy-out packages and who wants to return to work.
Fuller said it was Safeway that initiated the talks that ultimately resulted in a deal.
The new contract drops company demands for wage rollbacks, with wages remaining at an average of about $19-$20 per hour for full-time employees.
But the union conceded the new deal will affect 13 of the 18 jobs in the stores’ meat departments with the introduction of counter-ready, pre-packaged meats.
That issue had been key in the labour dispute.
In an as-yet unresolved issue between the union and its members, more than 200 of the workers applied in September for decertification of the union as their bargaining agent; some started an alternate labour group.