TORONTO, Oct. 9, 2014 /CNW Telbec/ - Loblaw grocery workers are conducting a sit-in at the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning to highlight their employer's brutal tactics in three labour disputes in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northwestern Quebec.
As Loblaw stock value approaches $25 billion, some of the company's lowest-paid workers – employees at Loblaw-owned stores in Témiscaming and Rouyn-Noranda – have been locked out or on strike for periods ranging from 16 to 25 months.
"We find it difficult to understand how one of Canada's richest corporations can't afford to pay a living wage," said Glenda Woodbury, who was locked out from her job at the Provigo store in Témiscaming in December 2012. "At the wages we earn, we can barely afford to buy groceries at the stores we work in, let alone a Thanksgiving turkey."
The top wage at her store is $12.40 for employees who have worked there up to 22 years. In response to a demand for a wage increase of about 40 cents an hour, Loblaw padlocked the store.
The demonstrators also underlined the $10 billion family fortune of Loblaw CEO Galen Weston Jr., who personally oversees contract negotiations.
"That's a lot of turkey, any way you slice it," Woodbury observed. "We hope Loblaw shareholders will show some Thanksgiving gratitude for the people who have helped increase their stock value by pressuring Mr. Weston to negotiate a decent collective agreement."
The demonstrators plan to march from the TSE to a Loblaw store in Maple Leaf Gardens on Carlton Street at 11:30 am, followed by a public outreach event at Dundas Square at 1:30 pm. The three labour disputes include:
- Maxi, Rouyn-Noranda: locked out since August 2012
- Provigo, Témiscaming: locked out since December 2012
- Loblaws, Rouyn-Noranda: on strike since June 2013
The workers at the Rouyn-Noranda Loblaws voted to strike after the company was fined for negotiating in bad faith by the Quebec labour relations commission. At the request of the Quebec labour ministry, Loblaw recently returned to the negotiating table with the Maxi workers in the same city, but to no avail.
All three unions are affiliated with the Quebec-based Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), which represents more than 2000 unions and 325,000 workers.
For further information: Lyle Stewart, CSN communications service, 514 796-2066