IGA locks workers out

photos by Jenny Uechi

Workers at the IGA store in downtown Vancouver on Burrard and Smithe street were behind picket lines on Friday after their employer served them with a lockout notice. About a dozen workers were standing oustide the store on Friday afternoon, holding signs and passing out pamphlets to people passing by.

The workers are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union, Local 1518, and picket lines will go up effective 12:00am Friday after attempts to land an agreement with the assistance of a mediator failed on July 27.

"That's the key issue -- we want to at least get on the road to earning a living wage," said Andy Neufeld, director of communications for UFCW 1518. He said that wages are low "right across the board" regardless of seniority or hours.

Although specific wages would not be discussed due to the fact that the negotiations were ongoing, a worker at the lockout said that most employees were earning "under $1,000 a month" and being kept at part-time hours.

The worker explained that health benefits were only given after employees worked for over two years full-time, and that some workers were kept working part-time for three or four years.


"Some of the customers are really supportive of us," said another worker, as customers stopping to talk to other employees. "But I think others will just go to other grocery stores."

Neufeld said that the lockout concerns only the downtown IGA, and that while the IGA Corporation controls the direction of the board, the labour dispute is between the workers and the managers.

"It's disappointing because typically, when the store shuts down, customers will find other places to shop and it can be very difficult to get them back. IGA will be facing competition from Safeway, Urban Fare, Extra Foods downtown, and that's a concern."

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