Metro took advantage of its workers to sign new deal

Results of this labour dispute could have adverse effects on strikes in other industries

Metro workers reached a deal on Aug. 31.

If you were in the GTA this past August, you likely noticed many local Metro grocery stores were closed.

On July 29, roughly 3,700 Metro employees across 27 stores in the GTA—with Unifor Local 414 as their union—took to picket lines after rejecting a deal from Metro, which offered full-time employees an increase of $3.75 and part-timers an increase of $1.05 over four years.  One hundred per cent of Metro workers voted to strike in June, demonstrating a dire need for better working conditions. 

The new deal, which workers ratified on Aug. 31, will boost full-time workers to an extra $4.50 an hour and part-time workers to an additional $3.20 an hour. Under the new deal, the increase will be stretched over a five-year period.

Unifor Local 414 members spent five gruelling weeks protesting for better wages While workers started protesting outside closed Metro locations across Toronto, they later moved on to forming blockades at Metro warehouses to prevent trucks from making produce and meat deliveries. 

The company later won a court injunction to cease the blockade on Aug. 29, the occupation created an impressive spectacle, the effects of which reached Kingston, as speculated on Reddit last week. 

This labour dispute also comes as one strike of many in Canada over the last several months. Last November, provincial education workers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) went on strike to protest wage cuts, as proposed by Doug Ford’s provincial government.

Earlier this year federal Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) workers took to the picket lines to secure better wages from the Federal Government in one of the largest strikes in Canadian history. Talk of future strikes looms among several industries affected by Bill 124 in Ontario—which was struck down in court—including the education and healthcare industries, as well as support workers at Queen’s University. 

Considering the Metro strike alongside other labour disputes in Canada this year, Metro workers were in a great position to rally for better pay and labour conditions, and union members had the advantage of multiple simultaneous strikes to demonstrate the efficacy of organized labour. Metro employees had the benefit of dominating headlines since earlier this summer major news outlets reported on the escalating dispute. To see workers agree to a deal that fails to meet their demands is disappointing. 

The retail industry has been hit especially hard by the cost of living crisis after enduring dangerous working conditions throughout COVID-19, and workers’ anger at poor working conditions has been more obvious than ever.

Although workers voted to sign a new deal on Aug. 31, the deal itself was polarizing, and many workers felt their commitment to earning better wages wasn’t honoured by members who voted to accept the deal. 

If anything, the Metro strike showed employers that workers would agree to less-than-ideal agreements if employers hold out long enough.

Though striking workers escalated the dispute with hopes to achieve better wages, Unifor’s strike pay of $300 each week is far below what’s needed to live in the GTA. Rejecting a deal that achieves an increase in pay from Metro’s initial offer before the labour dispute for many workers with mortgages or dependents could’ve led to more time on the picket line with a greater loss of wages, posing greater financial risk to these individuals.

Despite this, as a company that boasts over $19 billion in profits each year—a number many believe to be achieved through jacking up prices for essential items—Metro can surely afford to pay its workers more than what it initially proposed.

There’s good reason for concern agreeing to a lowball deal will make strikes across multiple industries less effective. By accepting a deal that doesn’t pay all its workers a liveable wage by the GTA’s standards, Metro and other industry giants will likely continue to shirk their responsibility to pay workers fairly.


labour dispute, strike, union

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