Multiple Safeway locations are slated to permanently close if parent company Sobeys cannot reach an agreement with its United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW 1518) employees to convert the stores into FreshCo, its discount banner.
“This is never an easy decision that we have to make,” said Sobeys spokesperson Jacquelin Corrado, confirming the food giant, owned by Empire Co., intends to close 10 Lower Mainland Safeways.
UFCW 1518 president Ivan Lampright said Tuesday it is “an insult and an outrage.”
Lampright said if all 10 stores close, hundreds of people will lose their jobs.
Furthermore, hundreds more will be displaced through a transfer process, Lampright said in a news release.
“That won’t fly in bargaining, though. We told the company that we need all of the information on decisions they’ve made that will impact our members. It’s time to stop the games and start respectful negotiations.”
UFCW 1518 stated that if Sobeys gets “favorable terms and conditions” for its FreshCo stores it may reopen five of the 10 locations: Blundell and Broadmoor in Richmond, Newton Town Centre and Strawberry Hills in Surrey, and Mission. The other five "underperforming" locations — City Square and Point Grey in Vancouver, Lougheed Mall and Royal Oak in Burnaby, and Sunwood Square in Coquitlam — would be permanently closed.
“UFCW 1518 will be working with other UFCW locals and UFCW Canada to fight back against Sobeys’ attempt to bring in poverty wages instead of living wages,” stated a news release.
Sobeys' Corrado said negotiations have not begun and thus couldn’t confirm if the company is seeking lesser wages and benefits for FreshCo.
She noted that if FreshCo reopens, renovations will be done to both locations and during that time the pharmacies will remain open for customers.
Lampright pinned the closures on Sobeys’ mismanagement of the Safeway stores since being purchased in 2013.
According to Empire Co.’s 2017 annual report, Sobeys owns, affiliates or franchises more than 1,500 stores in Canada under retail banners that include Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo., Thrifty Foods and Lawton’s Drug Stores as well as more than 350 retail fuel locations.
However, “challenges faced in the Western business unit have resulted in significant decreases in sales and profitability, arising from the integration of the Canada Safeway acquisition.”
Corrado noted, “It hasn’t been a secret that our Safeway locations have struggled.”
Lampright said Safeway’s once well-loved B.C. brand has been “sullied.”
The Safeway locations slated for closure are: City Square, Point Grey, Lougheed Mall, Sunwood Square, Royal Oak, Blundell, Richlea, Newton Town Centre, Strawberry Hills and Mission.
The closures are scheduled for May 5, except for City Square which is set to close on July 28.