Loblaw and the Walmart effect


Before you buy what Galen Weston’s flogging on television, think about Carol, the head cashier at my local Loblaw store.

Carol has been a loyal Loblaw’s part-time employee for 26 years, having given up a good, full-time job in banking to care for her developmentally delayed child. All these years, Carol and her family have counted on Loblaw and her own union to provide her with a decent wage. For years, she’s been making $17 an hour, having achieved seniority in a job many people would consider a bit of dead-end.

Like most of the rest of the employees at my store, Carol is decent and hard-working. We live in a neighborhood filled with mentally and physically challenged individuals who often find it difficult to get their groceries, juggle their money or understand even the simplest protocols. I’ve watched Carol handle both stressed out cashiers and many difficult customer situations with diplomacy and humor. I’m sure that Carol would have been a valued employee in many white-collar jobs — thanks to her people skills — but life sometimes hands a person lemons and Carol has been excellent at making lemonade.

Today, she was telling me about the difficult decision she had to make about her future. Loblaws is converting this and many other stores into Loblaw Great Food — in an effort to compete with Walmart and other non-union shops — and they’ve given their employees the option of taking a buy out or staying on. For full-time employees, retirement could be worth more than $75,000 in severance but the part-timers taking golden handshakes are being offered only $15,000.

“What am I supposed to do with $15,000?” she asked me. “If I leave this job, where am I going to get another one?”

Carol has decided to stay with the Weston family chain but her decision comes at a big financial price. Her pay grade has been downgraded to $13 an hour, a four dollar an hour difference. So, effectively, her employer and union have punted employees nearly back to minimum wage regardless of the years they put in.

Not much of a reward for a loyal, nearly three decade serving employee.

There is a noticeable pall in my grocery store now. The employees are angry; they feel their union sold them out. But most of them are staying because they don’t have a lot of options, especially the part-timers.

So do me a favor. If you see Galen Weston on the street, standing in front of cameras in his cashmere sweaters and designer jeans, accept his all beef slider, all dressed, and toss it into his $100 hair cut.

Ask him why his family can squander money earned on Canadian soil, on the backs of Loblaw’s employees, on high-end English department and shoe stores. Or ask him to live for one month on a ghetto $13 an hour job.

It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

But it’s what we get for selling out our fellow Canadian for discount shoes.

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10 thoughts on “Loblaw and the Walmart effect

  1. I wonder if the Westons are reducing their substantial annual donation to the Fraser Institute by a like amount, or whether it is just their workers they want to strip the flesh from.

  2. Working retail sucks. It’s atrocious what Westons is doing to Carol & others like her…part-timers, no matter their loyalty & good service, don’t matter to the corporation. It’s all about the dollars.
    Canadian corporations are no different from the U.S. ones we hate (for good reason).
    I work for Shoppers Drug Mart, perhaps one of the cheapest & most dictatorial Canadian retail companies there are. I’m a supervisor, meaning I’m responsible for the store at night when I work…I make even less than Carol’s downgraded hourly wage.
    As with Carol, I don’t have other options, considering where I live & my age.
    At one time Westons was a good company who cared about their employees, Alas, that was decades upon decades ago. My Dad worked for them delivering bread in a horse-drawn vehicle. He respected the company because he was respected…apparently the fairness & respect didn’t follow through with the next generations.

  3. You are only considering half of the story here. What this article fails to mention are the benefits of the new low Wal-mart like prices offered to the entire community. It is true that Carol will suffer a pay cut. It isn’t very reasonable, however, to assume that she will never find a new job. The consumer benefits of Loblaw Great Food need also be recognized. A young mother might finally be able to afford daipers for her child. Or perhaps, a little girl’s parents can afford to buy her a present for Christmas this year with the money they save every week on groceries. Who knows? But one should consider the economic benefits of such a “buy-out” before judging too harshly the decision that was made.

  4. Don’t be fooled by the possible goodness here, simply more corporate greed and right off the backs of employees while profit projections for loblaw as posted in the Toronto star are increasing by 20%!!!!!!!!!! Embarrising to say the least…. just more corporate greed plain and simple!!!!!!!

  5. Go up north and see the Galen cottage, its massive and on their own island, they are idiots and greedy, the whole thing is completetly made out of glass, so they have to camp outside in tents. Bahahaha. idiots!!

  6. It sucks I totally understand!!! However today unions are totally outdated and have 0 effect for the workers these days. Maybe 100 years ago they had some social validity, very few people support unions. I would take the highest payout I could get, and find another job.

    • So non union workplaces like Walmart are todays model?
      Every Loblaws employee is better off than working for a retailer like WM that screws everyone from every direction in every way.

    • Mark, imagine what like would be like for workers if there were no unions to protect them There would be absolutely no counterbalance at all to corporate greed. That’s why the corps are trying so hard to get rid of the labour movement for good. Don’t buy into their propaganda!

  7. Really shouldn’t the blame go to the Walton family? The children of Sam Walton are now worth over 20 BILLION EACH, yet they will close a store down if the workers get a dollar an hour raise. “It.s not profitable” they will say.
    What about the Loblaws employee’s that have supported Walmart by shopping there? I think the blame of this article is pointed in the wrong direction.

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