B.C. government appoints special officer in Sobeys dispute

Talks have 'stalled': UFCW president

B.C. government appoints special officer in Sobeys dispute
UFCW 1518 represents about 4,500 Safeway workers in B.C. GOOGLE STREET VIEW

British Columbia's Minister of Labour Harry Bains appointed Vince Ready on April 3 as special officer in the ongoing dispute between United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), Local 1518 and Sobeys, owner of about 60 Safeway stores across the province.

Bains made the appointment after Ivan Limpright, UFCW president, asked the government to intervene when negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement between the union and Sobeys stalled last month, said the union.

"Talks had stalled and Sobeys wanted to fast track to final offer selection arbitration without bargaining with us," said Limpright. "But Sobeys failed to respond to even one of our proposals and we reached an impasse."

UFCW 1518 represents about 4,500 Safeway workers in B.C.

The appointment of a special officer is to "further industrial peace," said Bains, who advised Ready that under Section 106 of the B.C. Labour Relations Code he is empowered to "make recommendations or any order necessary or advisable" as well as "to arbitrate the dispute or differences."

Ready is a mediator and arbitrator with experience in the retail food industry, said the union.

The purchase of Canada Safeway by Sobeys' has led to a string of problems for the company and union members, including the company's attempt to piggyback the  introduction of a discount banner into the B.C. market onto contract negotiations and the closure of 10 Safeway locations, according to UFCW.

In February, the union filed an illegal lockout complaint with the B.C. Labour Relations Board in response to the store closure announcement. UFCW 1518 also filed grievances against Sobeys for denying the union's request of right of first refusal to purchase the stores slated for closure, demotions related to the store closures and improper scheduling, said the union.

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