Safeway workers accuse Sobeys of union busting

The company apparently suspended unionized workers who were shop stewards and on the bargaining committee.

Earlier this week, the Alberta Labour Relations Board released their most recent New Applications Report. In the report is a new application alleging interference by Sobeys during contract negotiations by workers at their Safeway stores in Alberta.

Last month, Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers submitted an application to the ALRB saying that the company was interfering with the recent unionization effort by “suspending the employees due to their support for and activity in the union.”

The application specifically claims that the workers suspended by Sobeys included “shop and walking stewards and bargaining committee members”.

Local 401 alleges that these actionns contravened several sections of the Labour Relations Code. For example, they believe it contravenes 148(1)(a)(ii), which states,

No employer or employers’ organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or employers’ organization shall participate in or interfere with the representation of employees by a trade union.

They believe that Sobeys’ actions were purposefully done to scare other workers into thinking “that if they participate in union activities, they too will be subject to adverse treatment, including suspension.”

Furthermore, Local 401 alleged that Sobeys had failed “to address customer abuse in the required 120 days”.

They also feel that these actions that they claim occurred violate sections 149(1)(a)(i) and (viii):

No employer or employers’ organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or employers’ organization shall refuse to employ or to continue to employ any person or discriminate against any person in regard to employment or any term or condition of employment because the person is a member of a trade union or an applicant for membership in a trade union, [or] has exercised any right under this Act

In addition, the union claims these actions contravened 149(1)(b) by imposing “any condition in a contract of employment that restrains, or has the effect of restraining, an employee from exercising any right conferred on the employee by this Act”.

As well, it violated 149(1)(c) because they sought, “by intimidation, dismissal, threat of dismissal or any other kind of threat, by the imposition of a pecuniary or other penalty or by any other means, to compel an employee to refrain from becoming or to cease to be a member, officer or representative of a trade union”.

The workers have retained the Edmonton law firm Chivers Carpenter for representation in this case. The union-side firm specializes in labour, employment, and human rights law and has assigned James Diebert to the case.

The ALRB has set a hearing date for this matter to occur on 22 August 2023.

Since the ALRB doesn’t archive their new application reports, here’s a copy of the most recent one.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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