Kingston’s Metro and Food Basics grocery stores are hopeful to avoid any supply chain issues as a tentative agreement with Toronto warehouse workers has been reached.
Over 900 full-time warehouse workers at Metro’s Etobicoke site walked off the job as of Saturday, with benefits and pay cited as the main two issues for employees.
The warehouse acts as the distribution hub for a massive portion of southern Ontario, covering from Kingston to Windsor, including the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and Niagara Region.
Toronto area stores became increasingly barren through the week, with photos in recent days showing shelves virtually devoid of produce.
In a statement, Metro Ontario Inc. says it “maintains service to customers” despite the strike action by Unifor Local 414, adding that the bargaining team even recommended that members accept the initial settlement.
“We are disappointed with the employees’ decision to strike but remain ready to go back to the table. We have implemented our contingency plan and our stores will remain open to serve our customers,” said Carmen Fortino, Executive Vice President, Ontario Division Head & National Supply Chain, Metro Ontario Inc.
Metro’s initial offer included an average increase of 6% to hourly wages in the first year of the agreement and 14% over four years along with pension and benefit improvements, which workers feel is still not fair compensation based on the profits chain grocery stores have managed to earn throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Metro finished 2021’s fiscal year on a “strong note” according to their CEO, and saw revenue growth of 1.6% even after pandemic related shutdowns led to an unprecedented 7.4% growth in 2020.
In November, Metro noted that even as restrictions ease the company’s overall sales are higher than they were before COVID.
The striking warehouse employees joined nearly 200 Sobey’s warehouse workers in Terrebonne, Quebec who walked off the job in February, leading Sobey’s last month to say they’re reevaluating their entire distribution network.
A manager at one of Kingston’s Metro locations told YGK News that he had been instructed to redirect all inquiries to Metro spokesperson Stephanie Bonk, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Employees at Kingston’s local stores said they hadn’t noticed any abnormal shortages to this point.
The Toronto distribution centre services three Metros and three Food Basics locations in Kingston, Metro also has a warehouse located in Ottawa.
Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe said that the two sides were in negotiations much of Thursday, resulting in a new tentative agreement that striking workers will vote on Friday, April 8.