Workers at Saskatoon Co-op locations walked off the job Thursday morning.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1400, which represents the affected employees, issued strike notice earlier this week.
Rod Gillies, who serves as the union’s local director of negotiations, said a plan by Co-op to reduce wages for new hires is the biggest sticking point in contract talks.
“This is a significant issue affecting a significant amount of people,” he said Wednesday afternoon in an interview with 650 CKOM.
Gillies said the union and the company would be sitting down Friday for more talks
“We’re going to bargain and I don’t think any party cares how late it goes.”
Workers began picketing at various locations early Thursday morning.
The picketers aren’t blocking vehicles from going in and out, but I’ve seen a few cars drive on by. Other customers were shocked to find out the grocery store was closed. #yxe pic.twitter.com/gxp9eVprAq
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) November 1, 2018
A media release issued Thursday by the company indicated most locations would open with reduced hours during the strike.
However, the Saskatoon Co-op grocery store and gas bar at the Centre Mall was scheduled to operate under normal hours, as its employees are represented by a different union.
The release stated that Co-op pharmacies would continue filling customer prescriptions at five locations. People were asked to call in refill orders 48 hours in advance when possible, with free delivery offered to in Saskatoon and Warman.
Saskatoon Co-op CEO Grant Wicks was quoted in the release saying the company was being forced to reduce wages for new employees in order to remain competitive.
“Our current wage ranges are as much as 25 to 35 per cent higher than our competitors, which isn’t sustainable in the long-term,” Wicks said.
The strike affects about 900 employees.
This story has been updated to correct an earlier draft which identified Saskatoon Co-op CEO Grant Wicks as CEO of Federated Co-op.