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Dominion grocery store workers on strike in Newfoundland

Workers on strike outside the Old Placentia Road Dominion location in Mount Pearl. More than 1,400 workers are on strike at 11 locations across Newfoundland from St. John’s to Stephenville. -JUANITA MERCER/THE TELEGRAM
Workers on strike outside the Old Placentia Road Dominion location in Mount Pearl. More than 1,400 workers are on strike at 11 locations across Newfoundland from St. John’s to Stephenville. — Juanita Mercer/The Telegram

Union says they want full-time jobs, better wages and benefits; 11 locations across the province affected

Parking lots at Dominion Stores in Newfoundland were empty Sunday.

In Mount Pearl, at the Old Placentia Road location, workers holding “On Strike” signs and waving Unifor flags blocked all entrances to the grocery store.

“The members have spoken. They want to make it clear to their employer that they want to be treated with respect, decent jobs and good wages,” said Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice.

The union represents more than 1,400 Dominion workers at 11 locations across Newfoundland, from St. John’s to Stephenville.


Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice: “These are the very workers who supported us all during this pandemic and I hope that the public will support them now.” — JUANITA MERCER/THE TELEGRAM
Unifor Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice: “These are the very workers who supported us all during this pandemic and I hope that the public will support them now.” — JUANITA MERCER/THE TELEGRAM

The strike action began at 10:01 p.m. Saturday after workers overwhelmingly voted to turn down the latest contract offered by Dominion’s parent company, Loblaw Companies Limited, according to a Unifor news release.

Wrice said workers at some Loblaw-owned stores, such as Shoppers Drug Mart locations, are not a part of this bargaining unit and therefore are not affected.

Unionized Dominion employees had previously voted to strike in July, but Loblaw and Unifor reached a tentative collective agreement that looked like it might prevent a walkout. However, the workers rejected the tentative deal.

“The members want to show their employer that they mean business,” said Wrice.

She told reporters at Dominion on Sunday that workers want the full-time jobs that were clawed back in 2019 when 60 full-time positions were eliminated in Newfoundland stores. Wrice said some examples of those full-time jobs were financial administrators responsible for payroll and hiring, and back-door receivers, without whom, she said, products would never enter the stores.

“They attacked our department managers, and they’re trying to run their business on part-time workers,” said Wrice.


“The members want to show their employer that they mean business." — Carolyn Wrice


“They attacked the full-time jobs, I guess, because they don’t want to pay the money, they don’t want to pay the wages and the benefits.”

She said workers also want good benefits and better pay. She said a $2 per hour pandemic pay increase was cut in the middle of bargaining, sometime in June.

“That don’t show us that they really respected (workers) in any way. You know, in the middle of collective bargaining — that don’t look good,” said Wrice.

In the news release, Unifor national president Jerry Dias workers were offered a $1 dollar per hour increase — or half of the pandemic bump-up — over the entire life of a three-year contract. He said that monetary offer “fell short”.

Loblaw Atlantic Director of Corporate Affairs, Mark Boudreau pointed to the tentative agreement reached in July after months of negotiation.

“(It was) one that we all believed to be fair, addressing important areas for our team,” said Boudreau. “We are disappointed that this agreement was not accepted by our colleagues, despite being recommended by their union.”

The workers have been without a contract since October of 2019.

The union says more than 80 per cent of workers are part-time, with low pay, limited access to benefits, and haven’t received a raise since spring of 2018.

When asked the typical hourly wage for workers such as cashiers, Wrice said it was “barely above minimum wage.”

Minimum wage in the province is $11.65 and will increase to $12.15 on Oct. 1.


The Dominion parking lot at Pearlgate Plaza was empty Sunday morning. Workers on the picket line had all entrances blocked off, but Unifor said strikers will not block customers from accessing pharmacies and health clinics that are located at some Dominion grocery stores. — JUANITA MERCER/THE TELEGRAM
The Dominion parking lot at Pearlgate Plaza was empty Sunday morning. Workers on the picket line had all entrances blocked off, but Unifor said strikers will not block customers from accessing pharmacies and health clinics that are located at some Dominion grocery stores. — JUANITA MERCER/THE TELEGRAM

“We have a lot of single parents that are trying to raise families. It’s hard to do,” said Wrice.

As for how long the strike might last, Wrice said the union is ready to go back to the bargaining table; she said it’s a matter of the employer making the call.

Meanwhile, the fate of any food currently inside the stores is “in the hands of the employer,” said Wrice, who noted it could be given to food banks, but reiterated: “They can come speak to us. We’re here. I’m here, they know how to reach me.”

While workers are blocking entrances, a Unifor spokesperson said they will continue to permit access to pharmacies and health clinics located at some Dominion stores.

“We would never deny anybody from getting medication,” said Wrice.

Twitter: @juanitamercer_


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