TORONTO, April 1, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Locked-out and striking Loblaw grocery workers from Northern Quebec demonstrated inside the chain's flagship store at Maple Leaf Gardens this morning to demand a return to the negotiating table.
The action coincided with smaller actions at 70 Loblaw stores across Quebec.
The grocery giant has refused to negotiate for more than six months with workers at the Maxi in Rouyn-Noranda (locked-out since August 2012), the Provigo in Témiscaming (locked-out since December 2012) or the Loblaws in Rouyn-Noranda (on strike since June 2013).
"We can barely afford to shop at the stores we work in," said Cathy Presseault, president of the Provigo workers' union in Témiscaming.
Ms. Presseault, who has worked at the store for 22 years, made an hourly wage of $12.40 before Loblaw shuttered the only grocery store in the community.
"We're asking for raises of about 40 cents an hour," she said. "If Loblaw can afford to buy Shopper's Drug Mart for $12.4 billion, we're sure they can afford to pay us a living wage."
In fact, Forbes magazine's rankings of the world's richest people shows that Loblaw owner Galen Weston has grown richer by $1.4 billion over the past three years – a raise of about 20%.
"Galen Weston is taking food off our family's table to feed his greed," said Ms. Presseault. "He's leaving us no choice but to step up our campaign for fairness for Loblaw workers. Today's protest is just the beginning."
The lock-out at the Témiscaming Provigo leaves the town's 3,000 residents without a supermarket, forcing them to travel 80 km to North Bay in order to buy their groceries. The union has operated a weekly shuttle for residents without the means to travel.
In Rouyn-Noranda, meanwhile, the two labour conflicts have led to higher prices at remaining grocery outlets.
"Loblaw is putting pressure on the whole region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue. It is proving to be not only a terrible employer, but a bad corporate citizen," said Cathy Presseault.
For further information: Lyle Stewart, CSN communications service, 514 796-2066.