Produce shelves nearly empty as Metro workers strike at Etobicoke distribution centre

By Dilshad Burman

It was slim pickings at many GTA Metro stores as produce shelves were almost entirely empty Wednesday morning.

More than 900 full-time workers at Metro Inc.’s distribution centre in Etobicoke are on strike — where trucks full of fruits, vegetables and other products are behind picket lines.

Workers voted to reject a tentative agreement with the company on Saturday and have been on strike ever since.

The main issues of concern are wage and pension increases, including a pandemic pay increase given to workers that has since been rescinded.

In a statement earlier this week, Metro Inc. said they offered workers a six per cent hourly wage increase for the first year of the agreement and a total of 14 per cent over four years. The offer also included pension and benefits improvements.

The union representing the workers says while the wage increases negotiated were “excellent,” workers felt they weren’t enough to compensate them fairly and replace the pandemic pay increase.

“We’re talking about massive profits by an employer who throughout the pandemic made incredible profits and compensated their top executives at a high level,” said Chris MacDonald Unifor’s Assistant to the National President.

“The expectation of workers post-COVID and at the tail-end of the sixth wave now is really through the roof. There’s frustration among the membership about a $2 pandemic pay that was given and then taken away. And it’s understandable given what everybody has been through and the inflation that we’re seeing around the country.”

Metro said they were “disappointed with the employees’ decision to strike but remain ready to go back to the table.”

MacDonald says workers regret the inconvenience caused to customers and are eager to get back to work, but “not at all costs.”

“This is the only power that workers have – [they] can withdraw their labour,” he said. “Our members love their workplace and they want people to shop at Metro. So the minute we get a deal that our members can live with, we’ll get those shelves restocked, we’ll get the trucks moving and we’ll get food back into the Metro stores.”

Negotiations are set to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

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