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Effect on NLC employees remains uncertain
On Monday, the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC) announced five liquor stores in the province are closed until further notice due to the ongoing Dominion strike.
The closed locations are 5 Murphy Sq. in Corner Brook, 20 Lake Ave. in St. John’s, 150 Old Placentia Rd. in Mount Pearl, 260 Blackmarsh Rd. in St. John’s and 55 Stavanger Dr. in St. John’s.
“From a liquor store standpoint, NLC's store closures and reassignment of staff is being done in a manner that enables NLC to meet customer needs while meeting obligations to our staff,” an NLC spokesperson said.
“This will require some changes to shifts and hours. However, the impact of this is unknown at this time. The intent is to minimize disruption to our staff while meeting customer needs and recognizing the current labour situation at Loblaws.”
Liquor store employees are unionized with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), and president Jerry Earle said the union has been working diligently with the NLC to try to mitigate any negative effects.
“However, it’s our position that this whole thing could have been avoided had the Weston family — Loblaws — treated their frontline employees fairly,” Earle said.
“They have eroded full-time jobs, then expecting these part-time workers to work for barely above minimum wage, and we’ve clearly seen the value of the work that these employees have done always, but certainly through this pandemic.”
Earle said it’s likely some employees at closed locations will be redeployed to nearby locations that are open and now busier due to the smaller number of available liquor stores.
“It’s not until that scheduling is done will we see what the impact is, and then we’ll continue to work to make sure that, again, nobody is negatively impacted, or mitigated to the best of our ability.”
He said it will likely be a couple of days before there’s a clear idea of how many NLC employees are affected, and what the impact will be on those employees.
Food to be donated
Liquor store employees aren’t the only ones affected by the strike.
On Sunday, The Telegram witnessed a cleaner prevented from crossing the picket line to the Pearlgate Plaza Dominion, where he was scheduled to report for work.
There were also social media reports of striking workers preventing an Armour transport truck from entering a Dominion parking lot in St. John’s on Monday.
Unifor secretary-treasurer Lana Payne tweeted a photo of women on strike standing in front of an Armour truck.
Payne wrote, “The Dominion workers are stopping a transport truck from leaving with perishables until they get a commitment that the food will go to those in need.”
The Telegram contacted Armour Transportation Systems by phone on Monday afternoon, and was transferred to someone in operations who said the company could not make any comment on the situation, citing confidentiality.
“Given the current situation, we have been in touch with the local food banks to donate as much of our perishable food as possible." — Mark Boudreau, Loblaw Atlantic
However, Loblaw Atlantic director of corporate affairs Mark Boudreau said Dominion stores have a long-standing partnership with the Community Food Sharing Association and other food bank organizations across the province.
“Given the current situation, we have been in touch with the local food banks to donate as much of our perishable food as possible,” Boudreau wrote in an email to The Telegram Monday afternoon.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias stated in a news release earlier Monday afternoon that striking grocery store workers will help in any way they can to get perishable food out of stores and into the hands of not-for-profit organizations that can distribute the food.
“Ironically, some of Dominion’s own workers utilize local food banks, so we are keenly aware of the need in our communities,” said Unifor Local 597 president Carolyn Wrice. “The workers are taking a stand to raise working conditions for themselves and to draw attention to the poverty wages that profitable grocery giants like Loblaw continue to pay.”
Dominion strike action began Saturday night after workers overwhelmingly voted to turn down the latest contract offered by Loblaw.
Unionized Dominion employees had previously voted to strike in July, but Loblaw and Unifor reached a tentative collective agreement that looked like it might prevent a walkout. However, the workers rejected the tentative deal.
Wrice said workers want the full-time jobs that were clawed back in 2019 when 60 full-time positions were eliminated in Newfoundland stores. She said workers also want good benefits and better pay.
The workers have been without a contract since October 2019.