Safeway Strike

Frequently Asked Questions for meat, deli and seafood safeway members


Last updated September 12, 2023

Our bargaining committee has been working hard to negotiate a new contract for UFCW Local 247 members working in the meat, deli, and seafood departments at BC Safeway stores. Despite six months of talks, Sobeys, who owns Safeway, has presented us with a wage offer that is less than 1% in some years. This is not good enough. We need to escalate our pressure on Sobeys to get a fair deal – and we need to do this well in advance of our next meeting with the company, which is set for October 11-14, 2023.

We are joining forces with UFCW Local 1518, which represents the retail and pharmacy areas of the stores, and we will be holding strike votes in Zone 1 (Lower Mainland stores) on September 19-20, 2023. In advance of our Zone 1 Strike Vote, all Zone 1 Safeway meat, deli, and seafood members should attend our Strike Vote Info Telephone Townhall Meeting scheduled for Monday, September 18 at 7:00PM PDT (full details below).

If anyone is not receiving our updates, tell them to get connected with us by sending an email to ufcw@ufcw247.com or phoning toll-free 1-800-667-2205 and provide their full name, employee number, store number, email address, and cell phone number.

Our bargaining updates are available on our website here: https://ufcw247.com/safeway-bargaining

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions; be sure to check back here, as we update this information regularly:

What is a strike?
A strike is when union members collectively withdraw their labour – that is, they stop coming to work as a way of pressuring their employer to see bargaining issues their way. What this usually looks like is union members forming legal picket lines outside their workplaces to draw attention to their job action and engage the public about their issues. Striking workers usually refuse to come back to work until they receive a contract offer from their employer that they find acceptable.

Strikes are a powerful tool used by unionized workers in contract negotiations. We know that when an employer knows that its workers are prepared to strike to achieve their demands, they are more inclined to negotiate fairly.

What is a strike authorization vote, and why are we taking one?
A union can only legally issue strike notice in BC if its members have democratically authorized it to do so. A strike authorization vote authorizes our union to have the option to serve strike notice if we are unable to reach an agreement. A strike authorization vote is also a strong show of solidarity from the members to their union bargaining committee, helping them to return to the bargaining table with a strong mandate of support. The bargaining committee can then push Sobeys to make a better offer.

Does this mean we are automatically going on strike?
No, a strike authorization vote is an escalation in the bargaining process. It does not mean we will automatically issue strike notice. Ultimately, our committee is fighting for a fairer deal for Safeway members. After the strike authorization vote, we will return to the bargaining table in October, prepared to show Sobeys we are serious about our demands – but our goal is to reach an agreement without having to serve strike notice.

What is the process of having a legal strike in BC?
In BC, unionized workers have the right to legally strike their employers. Striking is considered lawful union activity, and union members who lawfully strike and picket normally return to their jobs once a strike is over and work resumes. With those rights come responsibilities. A strike involves everyone at a workplace, so the decision to strike must be a democratic one. A union cannot serve strike notice on an employer unless union members have voted in favour of taking strike action.

There is also a notice period before a strike can take place. In BC, a legal strike cannot commence until at least 72 hours have passed since the union has provided notice to the employer. When perishable goods are involved, this notice period can be extended through an employer’s application to the BC Labour Relations Board. We’ll keep you posted on any strike notice being served and what that might mean in terms of time frames. A strike normally ends when a contract has been reached with the company and union members have voted to accept it.

If we are in a labour dispute, will I receive picket pay while on strike?
UFCW 247 members will receive picket pay so long as they show up to their picket shifts. The picket pay structure for UFCW 247 members at Safeway is:

There are some important rules to be aware of about picket pay:

In accordance with the UFCW International Constitution, financial aid is only payable to union members who have been on strike or locked out for at least 14 days in succession. Also in accordance with the Constitution, there is no picket pay for the first 7 days of a strike or lockout. Unions often encourage members to find alternate employment to supplement any loss of income during a labour dispute.

Picket captains will work with members on scheduling their picketing hours, with consideration for our need to ensure coverage is maintained at all picketing locations. Alternative duties may be available for members who are unable to walk a picket line.

I have already booked my vacation. Will I get paid for my vacation?  
When a strike is called, the provisions of the Collective Agreement are suspended, and this includes vacation pay. That said, you won’t LOSE vacation because you went on strike. During a dispute, if you need to take time away from the picket line, you can (without picket pay).

When the dispute ends, the Collective Agreement would be back in force, and you would still be entitled to your vacation time and pay.

If I am on paid sick leave, what happens to my pay?
Sick leave payments are provided by insurance carriers. If you are currently receiving benefits pay and still qualify for paid sick leave as defined under your Benefit Plan or EI, you would continue to receive those benefits. The same goes for Maternity or Parental Leave. If you are receiving those benefits, you should continue to receive those EI payments.

Who runs the picket lines?
Should a dispute seem inevitable, we will immediately train Picket Captains for each picket location. Picket Captains are your fellow members and workplace leaders who will be specifically trained to handle issues on the line related to picket pay, scheduling, amenities, media relations, and other important duties. Interested in serving as a Picket Captain,

How else can I prepare for a possible strike?
While we are several steps away from a possible strike, it’s never too early to start preparing. UFCW Canada has created Being Prepared, a helpful guide with steps to take well in advance of a possible strike. It includes general information about labour disputes, how to prepare financially (notifying your bank and creditors, for example), and general rules around picketing.

How long will the strike last? How does a strike end?
We don’t know exactly how long a dispute could last—no one does. But we are several steps away from this. Ultimately, bargaining should end with an agreement—one that both sides can ratify (that means the Employer and the Union members). And if that happens before a dispute… great!   If not, a dispute may be necessary, but it will ultimately end with a new agreement for our Safeway members in BC.
If our strike successfully shows the employer that we will not back down until we get what we deserve, the hope is that the strike will end with a better contract that addresses members’ priorities.

When is the Zone 1 strike authorization vote?
In coordinated solidarity with UFCW Local 1518, your UFCW Local 247 bargaining committee has unanimously agreed that NOW is the time to take a strike authorization vote. They are calling for members to show Sobeys that they are united in fighting for a fair contract.

We will be holding a Strike Vote Info Telephone Townhall Meeting for all Safeway members working in Zone 1 Meat, Deli, and Seafood Departments as follows:

During that meeting, we’ll be able to answer any questions our members have about the strike authorization vote and a potential job action. We will call you to the number on file so please contact us if your number has changed recently to ensure we can reach you.

The strike authorization vote for Zone 1 members in the Lower Mainland will be held online as follows:

You will receive your voting credentials to your email address on Tuesday, September 19 at 9 am PDT.

Anyone who does not receive their voting credentials on September 19 can call the union office at 1-800-667-2205 to request them, after verifying their identity. Members requiring in-person assistance to vote can come to the UFCW Local 247 office at 14936 32 Avenue in Surrey. The office will be open from 9am - 7pm PDT on Tuesday, September 19 and Wednesday, September 20 from 9am - 3 pm PDT.

Who votes in a strike authorization vote?
All active UFCW 247 members who work in the meat, deli, and seafood departments in Safeway stores in Zone 1 (Lower Mainland – working in stores from Hope to Whistler) will have the right to vote. This includes anyone who is on probation.

Voting YES means that you support your bargaining committee’s recommendation to authorize a strike and demand a better contract than what Sobeys is offering.

Members not in Zone 1 (outside the Lower Mainland) will have many opportunities to support their fellow union members, who will rely on your solidarity to fight for the best possible deal for all Safeway workers.

Will anyone know how I voted?
No! Your vote is confidential! Neither your coworkers nor anyone else will know how you voted.  Unless you share how you voted with them, no one will know.

My store is in Zone 2. What does taking action look like for me in my store?
Not all Safeway meat, deli, and seafood members have the ability to formally strike. In the coming weeks, we will be providing other ways members in Zone 2 can show their solidarity and support throughout BC and throughout UFCW Local 247.

We also encourage Zone 2 members to contact us at ufcw@ufcw247.com if there are ways they would like to get involved in supporting Zone 1 members.

If we are on strike at my location but other unions are not able to strike, what will happen?
While we speak with other unions in solidarity, we should never speak for them. 

We know there are unions dealing with different circumstances than ours (i.e. a store that is less than 10 years old has different rules about striking for other unions), but we are also aware that UFCW Local 1518 has advised their members that, if we or the Bakers’ union serve strike notice at any store, UFCW Local 1518 members would not cross our picket line and they would receive picket pay.

Members of other unions affected by a strike should always thoroughly review information being shared with them by their union. 

Where can I find more information about whether we will go on strike? How can I keep up to date with negotiations?
We will provide members with all the information they need to make an informed decision well ahead of job action. Union representatives and bargaining committee members will visit stores to keep members updated and answer your questions, and as always, we will continue to keep members updated via emails, telephone town halls and the Safeway Bargaining Page.

Ensure that your contact info with us is up to date by visiting our website.

As always, please talk to your co-workers and ensure that anyone who is not receiving union emails updates their contact info with us. Tell them to email ufcw@ufcw247.com or phone toll-free 1-800-667-2205 and provide their full name, employee number, store number, email address, and cell phone number.

How can I get more involved?
At this key stage, the best things members can do is become informed, get connected with their union, and spread the word in the stores. If anyone is not receiving our updates, tell them to get connected with us by contacting us to update their phone number and email.  Don’t hesitate to be in touch with your shop steward and/or union rep to make sure you know the latest information. If you have a question, please ask it – we guarantee there are others with the same questions.