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Safeway workers ratify agreement


While it isn’t know how employees at the Canada Safeway store in Kenora voted Tuesday night, those working at the stores here and in Dryden ratified their tentative deals Sunday and Monday, respectively.

“It went very well,” said Dan Belluz, who had been in Kenora negotiating with the company and union teams from the Dryden and Kenora stores along with Tyler Reinson of here.

“We had a good turnout [at the Red Dog Inn on Sunday],” he added. “It’s a respectable contract. Both the company and staff should be happy with it.”

Local employees voted 92 percent in favour of the new contract, which was reached after about nine hours of bargaining last Thursday in Kenora.

Details of the agreement were not to be released until all the ratification votes were completed.

News of the tentative deals came the same day Canada Safeway announced it was closing its three stores in Thursday, which had been on strike since Oct. 1, 2001.

Cheryl Mumford, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, verified this morning that Dryden workers had voted well in favour of their agreement, but she still hadn’t heard from the Kenora store.

But Mumford also noted while the stores were at the bargaining table together, they all reached separate collective agreements and so the ratified agreements by workers here and in Dryden are not dependent on what happens in Kenora.

But the picture wasn’t as positive last Thursday, when just as the bargaining began, Safeway executives arrived in town to hire “scab” workers in the event of a strike.

This led to a brief demonstration by a handful of local Safeway employees outside La Place Rendez-Vous, where the company reps had booked rooms for interviews.

“We feel disappointment. Hurt and definitely surprised. Shocked, we were all shocked,” said one employee, who chose to remain anonymous.

“I mean, they’re negotiating right now.”

“I think Thunder Bay was a proving ground for Safeway. They’re sending a message,” said another. “They’re entering into negotiations everywhere out west, like B.C. and Alberta.”

But the protest was cut short when management of La Place Rendez-Vous turned away the Safeway hiring crew before 5 p.m.

“We do a lot of business with Safeway. They book a lot of meetings here,” said Rendez-Vous co-owner Georges Blanc. “So when the rooms were booked, we didn’t know why they were here.

“It wasn’t until the afternoon when we got wind they were hiring temporary staff there and when we found out, we weren’t interested in dealing with a situation such as this one,” Blanc added.

Blanc noted the hiring staff was “very co-operative” when they left, but didn’t know exactly where the Winnipeg crew would go next.

“It’s great to see that kind of support from the community,” said one protester.

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