Galen Weston and Co are the big turkeys in our house this Thanksgiving. That’s because sweet little Galen has been threatening not just the livelihood of Loblaw workers, but also their pensions and benefits.
Tomorrow, we will learn whether the stare down between Loblaw and its employees tilted in favor of company or employee. Regardless of the outcome, the people of Canada should be concerned. While Galen has been busy extolling the virtues of buying produce close to home, his company has been following a business formula that favors globalization. And it’s trying to bust its union in the process.
And in an unbelievably cynical move, Loblaw has delivered its normal flyer three days early, so people can stock up should there be a strike on Friday.
Blaming Walmart and the other big boxers, Loblaw is saying it can’t afford to hire on so many full timers, the people who hold union cards. And it can’t afford to pay pensions and benefits to the many men and women who stuff the grocery aisles and check out your orders.
It couldn’t be that Loblaw overextended itself by building too many of its own big box stores, chock full of cosmetics, wine, fitness, photography, electronics, cooking demonstrations — even doctor’s offices — when all we wanted was a place to shop locally. Nah, it wasn’t management’s fault. It was the for-the-most-part lowly paid staff, the single moms and students who were to blame for a less than cushy bottom line.
My Loblaw store is a little one in an Ottawa shopping mall, a place where we know every cashier by name. A lot of them are working two jobs to support their families. They aren’t in the business of flogging grocery store banking or 20 kinds of cheeses. These employees are putting food in the carts of a lot of low income families who living in the surrounding apartment buildings. Their customers are just getting by, and a lot of them find it hard to afford a bus pass let alone drag their groceries from the mega-stores.
The employees at my store deliver food to seniors and shut-ins for five bucks. And they deliver a lot of those groceries. They are the heart and soul of Loblaw, even though rumors persist that Loblaw intends on shutting down this and many of the other smaller stores, in favor of grocery stores you have to drive to.
The problem with Loblaw, Mr. Weston, is not Walmart. The trouble is that Loblaw has been spending so much effort wanting to be Walmart, and trying to be Walmart, and sucking at it.