Deadlock on wage hike
Deadlock on wage hike
GTA Metro workers strike 3 weeks later
By Sophia de Guzman
The Philippine Reporter
The union representing Metro workers and the corporation have yet to come back to the negotiating table. Now, the company has reached out to the Ministry of Labour for support. Unifor, the union representing Metro workers, disagrees with the request to get the government involved, asking Metro to return to the table with a stronger deal.
A wage increase is at the center of workers’ demands in this strike – specifically the reinstatement of Metro’s “hero pay” program, which entailed an immediate two-dollar pay increase for all workers at the beginning of the pandemic.
Stagnated wages, worsened by the loss of “hero pay”, are hitting while many are vulnerable in the GTA with living costs increasing and COVID-19 cases beginning to rise again.
The “hero pay” program was soon repealed later that summer by all three of Canada’s largest grocery chains, Metro Inc. Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Empire Company Ltd. at the same time. The decision faced significant public outcry and became one of the several reasons that critics have suspected Metro and its competitors Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Sobey’s of anti-competitive practices.
It should be noted that Metro Inc. is still under investigation by the Competition Bureau of Canada for the alleged price-fixing scandal with the Canada Bread Company. Earlier this summer, Canada Bread Company pleaded guilty to four counts of price-fixing, which it arranged with Weston Foods, a subsidiary of George Weston Limited which is the parent company as Metro’s competitor, Loblaw.
In 2022, Metro reported over $800 million in net earnings and has reported significant increases in earnings every year since the pandemic began in 2020. Metro workers and critics of the corporation are pointing to the company’s record-breaking profits over the course of the pandemic as proof that lowering workers’ wages is because of “greed” rather than because of high levels of inflation, which the company suggests poses a significant challenge in their 2022 financial statements.
New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh met with Unifor members in St. John’s, Nfld. and voiced support for the workers on strike, he pointed to the profits of Metro and its competitors as a clear sign that these companies can afford to pay their workers more.
At one location in Downtown Toronto, workers stated that threatening signage had been put up on the doors of their store stating that Metro’s bargaining committee has “reached out to [Unifor] … unfortunately, the union refused our offer to meet.” Unifor has told its membership that these claims are not true.
“[Metro] is making millions in profits while we all work here, but we cannot afford to buy here,” said Sanad Agrawal, a part-time worker on the picket line. Agrawal is a student who commutes from Missasugua to Toronto for school and work and says that while being on the picket line is getting tiring, workers need their demands met.
Multiple workers on the picket line told our reporter that they were growing tired and worried about being on strike for so long, yet they are trying to remain hopeful that a deal will be met soon.