Rain drizzled down on hundreds of striking Safeway employees on the first day of a stand against what they say are unfair working conditions.
“We’re locked out, so we’re locking them out,” said striking order selector Nathan Couture.
They created a human roadblock at entrances to Safeway’s main distribution centre, as company higher-ups looked on from a row of rented vehicles. Few words were exchanged between the two groups.
“We do respect the process of picketing and do understand it’s a legal activity,” said Safeway spokeswoman Betty Kellsey. “What is not acceptable and illegal is blocking trucks in and out of that facility.”
The company is seeking an injunction from the labour board.
Safeway took out ads following strike notice, offering replacement workers $18.41 per hour to pick up the slack created by 360 missing bodies.
Union rep Doug O’Halloran calls labour laws “archaic,” adding they don’t prevent people from crossing the picket lines to fill vacant jobs.
“They call them ‘replacement workers,’ we call them ‘scabs,” he said. “These are people that cross the picket lines and try to steal these jobs away. They’re literally selling their souls at the cost of these workers.”
Kellsey confirmed Safeway has hired around 90 trained replacement workers, who are ready to fill slots as soon as strikers allow trucks in and out of the property. She added third-party help will take over remaining distribution duties until the strike is resolved.
“We’re not going to take any physical action against them — they’re just trying to make a living, but they’re not going to take our jobs,” Couture said.
O’Halloran says the strike could last over three weeks.
Workers want job security, better working conditions, higher wages and a return to a 37-hour work week from an impending 40 hours.
With files from the canadian press