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Metro workers vow to stay off job ‘as long as it takes’ as strike enters 3rd day

Front-line grocery store workers at Metro, who are into their third day of a work stoppage, vowed on Monday to stay off the job until they get a fair deal from the company.

More than 3,000 store workers at 27 Metro locations in the Greater Toronto Area began strike action on Saturday after rejecting a tentative collective agreement reached last week between the company and their union — Unifor.

“We want the company to come back and give us a fair deal,” Tammy Laporte told CBC Toronto outside Metro Danforth.

“We’re on strike because we want fairness from our company. We want Metro to pay their workers what they’re worth and we’ll stand out here as long as it takes.”

Unifor Local 414 represents some 3,700 grocery store workers across the GTA.

Wages are top issue, worker says

Unifor said stores affected by the strike include those in Toronto, Brantford, Orangeville, Milton, Oakville, Brampton, North York, Islington, Willowdale, Mississauga, Etobicoke,  Newmarket and Scarborough.

Laporte, a produce and fruit clerk, who has worked with Metro for 25 years, said “wages is the top issue” for the workers.

“We want more money. They make great profits and we want to share in the benefits,” she said.

Another worker with the company for 25 years, Mike Labatt, said workers are “fighting for what they believe in and what they need to get by.” 

He said some workers are forced to go to food banks because they cannot afford to buy groceries.

“We’re not being able to buy the food we want from the grocery stores we work in, right? So why not give us what we need so we can survive paying rent, paying our bills, groceries,” Labatt said.

‘We have families to feed’

Maureen Strang was among the workers picketing outside the Metro at the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue on Monday.

She said grocery store workers provide “an essential service” for communities, adding that “we were here every day during the pandemic serving our customers.

“But we have families to feed as well and, sadly, many of us cannot afford to shop where we work. That has to change, and that’s why we’re here,” Strang said.

Strang said she has been working at Metro for 15 years.

“It’s been a tough [time] for retail in general, but the grocery stores were open all through the pandemic making money and the reason they were able to do that is because we were here every day putting our health and safety on the line because we want to serve our customers,” she said.

“And that’s what we’d rather be doing than being out here today.”

Metro says it remains committed to bargaining process

In a statement on Monday, Metro Inc. said it remains committed to the bargaining process.

Marie-Claude Bacon, Metro’s vice president of public affairs and communications, said the company “worked constructively with the union and the employees’ bargaining committee” and reached a mutually satisfactory agreement that they unanimously recommended to employees.

“It provided significant increases for our employees over the four years of the collective agreement in addition to improved pension and benefits, building on working conditions that are already among the highest in the industry which were negotiated with this union,” Bacon wrote in the statement.

According to Bacon, the proposed wage increases are above the inflation rate for 2023 and future increases are above the projected inflation rate.

“Every part-time employee who wants a full-time position has opportunities. For example, in the last two years alone, we’ve opened up a number of full-time positions and we haven’t been able to fill them all from our part-time ranks. Even today, we have full-time positions posted that part-time employees can apply for,” Bacon said.

On Saturday the company said it was “extremely disappointed” the employees rejected the agreement even though the union bargaining committee unanimously recommended it to its members.

Metro Ontario said the 27 stores will be closed for the duration of the strike, but pharmacies will remain open.

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