Tentative Deal Reached, Averting Strike at 17 No Frills Stores in Ontario

A No Frills store is shown in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. Unifor announced a strike deadline on Thursday, calling for higher wages and better working conditions for No Frills employees at 17 stores in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joe O'Connal

A significant development has emerged in the labor negotiations within Ontario’s grocery sector. Unifor, representing nearly 1,300 workers, has reached a tentative agreement with No Frills, a discount grocery banner owned by Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Canada’s largest grocery company. This agreement averts a potential strike that loomed over 17 stores across the province, including locations in Toronto, Whitby, Niagara Falls, and others.

The union had announced a strike deadline last Thursday, citing demands for higher wages and improved working conditions amidst growing company profits and rising costs of living. The strike could have commenced as early as Monday, had the agreement not been reached.

Lana Payne, Unifor’s National President, emphasized the significance of this agreement in a statement on Sunday. “Our bargaining committee at No Frills was determined to build on what grocery store workers had achieved this past summer with Metro,” she said. “This tentative agreement delivers pattern wages and many other improvements for our members.”

People wearing masks shop at a grocery store in Moncton, N.B., on Wednesday, September, 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Gord Currie, President of Unifor Local 414, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the workers’ readiness to strike if necessary. “No Frills workers knew that the public would have their back in their demand for their fair share of Loblaw’s enormous profits,” Currie stated. “Workers made it very clear that they were ready to strike, if necessary, in order to achieve our necessary demands for decent work and pay.”

The specifics of the deal have not been disclosed pending a ratification vote by the No Frills workers, most of whom are part-time. The voting process is scheduled to occur from Monday to Saturday.

This round of bargaining marks the first major negotiation for Unifor with a grocery chain since it secured a significant wage increase for more than 3,700 workers in the Toronto area employed by Metro this summer. The Metro deal, which concluded a month-long strike, included an immediate raise of $1.50 an hour for about 2,700 workers, with full-time and senior part-time workers expecting an additional 50-cent raise in January, totaling a $2-an-hour increase over the coming months.

The recent developments reflect a broader trend in labor negotiations within the grocery sector, where unions have been increasingly vocal about wage disparities and working conditions in the context of rising living costs and company profits.

Loblaw has yet to respond to requests for comment on the agreement.