Canada Safeway and union reps from its Fort Frances, Dryden, and Kenora stores, helped by a Ministry of Labour-appointed mediator, reached a tentative agreement around 11 p.m. yesterday after about nine hours of bargaining in Kenora.
Details of the agreement won’t be revealed until union members vote to ratify it. Local staff will vote on the deal Sunday evening at the Red Dog Inn, with Dryden and Kenora employees to vote Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
But Dan Belluz, who represented the Fort Frances employees along with Tyler Reinson in the contract talks, said he’s “quite optimistic” about the deal struck.
“The objectives we went there to meet, we met,” Belluz remarked this morning. “I think it’s a deal that works in both the company and the employees’ best interests.”
“We are pleased that an agreement could be reached without any inconvenience to our customers,” said Toby Oswald-Felker, vice-president of public relations for Canada Safeway in Calgary.
The tentative agreement came on the heels of news yesterday afternoon that Safeway was closing its three stores in Thunder Bay, which have been on strike since Oct. 1.
The closures will cost 481 people their jobs.
There also was a brief information picket by local Safeway employees yesterday afternoon at La Place Rendez-Vous, where Safeway corporate executives from Winnipeg were looking to hire temporary workers in case of a strike.
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.
Back on April 28, workers at Safeway stores here, and in Dryden and Kenora, voted more than 90 percent against the company’s contract proposal and in favour of strike action.
No strike date had been set.