Unifor responds to incomplete and premature info from Sobeys

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|April 25, 2024

Storefront of Sobeys in Sydney, NS


The Unifor Local 1971 bargaining committee has responded to the incomplete and premature information sent to Sobeys Sydney workers. Read the full memo below.





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Update April 23, 2024


Dear members of Local 1971,

It has come to the union’s attention that Employer memos are circulating regarding contract negotiations and job action.

We hope the following information is helpful to clarify both how this process works, and where we currently stand.



The Employer’s memos have broken the honourable standards that both the Employer and the Union agree to during bargaining by releasing information prematurely.

Once a tentative agreement is reached, only then can you evaluate what the employer has offered. We are still in the process of trying to reach a tentative agreement and the information that the Employer provided is out of context and misleading.

The bargaining committee is absolutely committed to ensuring it takes every step necessary to negotiate a fair agreement. Once reached, we will sit face-to-face with you detailing every proposed change to your contract and give you a chance to ask questions and share your opinions.

This meeting will happen when the bargaining committee is satisfied the employer has offered enough to improve the collective agreement to satisfy the members’ needs and goals and Sobeys and the bargaining committee sign a “tentative agreement”.

Now, we will go through some key points the Employer’s memo outlined to clarify some important information.


What Sobeys said:

“… we expect Unifor to initiate the process of organizing a strike vote by the employees.”

What your committee says about that:

  1. A strike vote is a process where the bargaining committee brings members together to discuss what a strike would mean for the workers, and assess whether the members support taking job action if your important demands are not met by the Employer.

  2. A strike is a difficult thing, and no one WANTS to go on strike. Workers in Canada have been very active these last few years and there have been many strikes. The main reason behind this is that the cost of living has skyrocketed and workers are struggling with affordability.

    Corporations (like Sobeys’ owner Empire) are reporting record-high profits, but workers’ wages aren’t keeping up. Workers standing together to demand a fair share of the success of a company is important, and a strike is one way we can do that, but not before exhausting all efforts at the bargaining table and not without the support of the membership.

  3. The timing of a strike vote and any strike action will be determined by your union and will not jeopardize any effort to reach an agreement with the Employer. You will receive notice of any strike vote and as much notice as possible before any job action.

What Sobeys said:

“In the first year of our proposed contract, your new salary would be $19.19/hour.”

What your bargaining committee says about that:

  1. The Employer is confusing the difference between the terms “hourly wage” and “salary” in their letter to you, which demonstrates a disconnection from the reality and the challenges of being an hourly worker.

  2. The Employer copied a proposed wage grid but doesn’t highlight a major factor:
    This offer adds 3,000 hours to the wage grid, meaning it would take YEARS longer to reach the top rate, putting it further out of reach for more colleagues.

The Employer is giving you incomplete information, which misleads employees to think the Company’s complete contract offer is enough.

The bargaining committee won’t mislead you or give you partial information on something as serious as your income.

  1. Until a tentative agreement is signed by both parties at the table, the Employer’s offer can’t be counted upon. That is, at any point during discussions, any item is vulnerable to being traded for something else in the agreement – this is why this process is called a “negotiation”.

    The committee isn’t sharing details on wage offers or new language proposals with you yet, because there is no tentative agreement and there have been no signatures promising that what is on the paper is what you’ll get from Sobeys. This is common good practice in labour negotiations.



Here are some of the questions we received from members following the Employer’s memos.

1. As you know we received a letter from management showing pay increases. When would those pay increases come into effect and to receive those pay increases? Will we be starting our hours from scratch?

Your bargaining committee’s response:

First, we must repeat how unusual and disrespectful of the bargaining process it was for the company to take a tiny portion of the unsettled negotiations and send them to you as if it was final. Bargaining in good faith means waiting until a signed tentative agreement is reached before either party shares details publicly.

Until a tentative agreement is signed, the company offer can’t be relied on. They could very well decide to change the wage scale on the final day of conciliation.

That aside and importantly, the pay scale they sent to you includes 3,000 more hours to reach the top rate. This is significant and needed to be made clear to you, as the union will do with future in-person meetings and not through an incomplete memo.

Timelines for pay increases can not be known until the negotiations have resulted in a tentative agreement, and then Sobeys Sydney workers vote to accept it.

2. Can we see what we are asking and what they are offering to know how far apart we are? Are there any other demands besides wages?

Your bargaining committee’s response:

As stated above, bargaining in good faith – which the union has done and will continue to do throughout this process – means waiting to release specifics until a tentative agreement is reached.


Because during negotiations, items are pushed back and forth – negotiated – up until the very last item. Things are constantly changing. There is no point in setting false expectations or in muddying the work of the Employer and the Union during this time.

The reason there are members from your workplace on the bargaining committee is specifically to ensure your interests as workers are well-represented and prioritized.

What is important to know right now is that the bargaining committee still feels there are important items left to negotiate and we intend to do that with the help of the government conciliator at our next meeting on May 8, 2024.


3. I would like to request a meeting to be held to explain to us why we are not being informed about what we are being offered.

Your bargaining committee’s response:

If the company has set an expectation that information is supposed to be exchanged at this point, that is deeply concerning. Your representatives on the bargaining committee – people who work in the stores, too! – are aware of every detail and are working hard to negotiate honourably and respectfully.

There have been membership meetings, and there will be another meeting scheduled soon.

It’s important for us to be clear that we intend to follow the rules of negotiations, despite Sobeys breaking the trust between parties and not following the very standard labour negotiation process.


4. If we strike is the union going to pay our benefits? Both what we pay plus what the employer pays on our behalf?

Your bargaining committee’s response:

If the majority of members working at Sobeys Sydney vote to go on strike to achieve a better contract, then there are provisions from Unifor to support workers during a labour disruption, including a strike or the company locking workers out.

Details of a lock-out or strike will be discussed at the upcoming meeting, where you will also receive a complete booklet on what happens during a lock-out or strike, what pay and benefits coverage you will receive from the union, and how the national union mobilizes to support your fight.

That level of information is best presented at a union meeting where you have the opportunity to have your specific questions and concerns addressed.


5. Can the union make us go on strike?

Your bargaining committee’s response:


A strike only happens when members are offered context around the struggles in negotiations, have the opportunity to ask questions, and then take a democratic vote.

Even then, the Union and Employer will not be in a legal lock-out or strike position until two weeks after the government conciliation officer has filed their report to the Labour Board and notice of lock-out or strike has been provided by the parties.

We are making every effort to reach a settlement through conciliation.

If a majority of workers at the store vote to strike, then the bargaining committee can decide if further negotiations are likely to reach an agreement, of if a strike may be necessary to fight back against the corporation’s demands.

It’s important for you to know that while negotiations are supported by Unifor staff,
the staff of the union do not get a vote

Members of Local 1971 working at the Sobeys Sydney store are the only ones who can make a decision as a group to strike, or to accept a new agreement.

We know a strike is difficult and every effort will be made and is being made by the bargaining committee to avoid a strike.

It is upsetting that the company has injected fear and uncertainty into this process.
You deserve better.

As always, we invite your questions at any time and encourage you to remember that you are the union and what you say goes.

Don’t let the Employer diminish your voice in the workplace or in negotiations by convincing you your voice doesn’t matter. Having a union is a way to organize your voices to stand up to massive companies. Unifor is here to support you in reaching a fair contract.


In solidarity,

Your bargaining committee