The Maple Ridge Safeway is becoming a FreshCo. (Contributed)

UPDATED: FreshCo in Maple Ridge ‘will mean lower wages’

Union appealing December decision by mediator Vince Ready.

Working at FreshCo will mean lower wages and lesser benefits, according to the union representing Safeway employees in Maple Ridge.

Kate Milberry, press secretary for UFCW 1518, said that those employees choosing to work under FreshCo will be doing so at a “lower quality of life” and lower income.

“We are disappointed that Sobey’s has chosen their bottom line over the health and well being of their members, many of whom are experts in the grocery industry and have contribute to the success of the Safeway brand over the last many years,” said Milberry.

The Safeway in Maple Ridge will be closed as of May 25 to undergo FreshCo conversion renovations, which are expected to take up to five months.

Sobey’s Inc., the company that owns FreshCo, made the announcement Tuesday afternoon.

Letters of termination were handed out yesterday at the five open Safeway stores as well as a, “customized letter of options,” that offers four choices that employees can accept.

Buyout offers were also extended to Safeway employees across the province.

However, Milberry said, some of their members will have no choice but to remain under the new FreshCo agreement rather than becoming unemployed.

The Maple Ridge location will be one of the first 10 FreshCo locations to open in the province.

Five other Safeway locations that previously closed will be opening as FreshCo in the spring.

They are: Blundell, Richmond; Broadmoor, Richmond; Newton Town Center, Surrey; Strawberry Hills, Surrey; and the former Mission location.

The Safeway in Aldergrove and the one in downtown Chilliwack will also be closing May 25 for renovations.

Safeway Ladner, Trenant Park, will be closing on July 13, and the Safeway in Abbotsford will be closing Sept. 7, to undergo renovations, as well.

Around 600 employees will be affected at the five stores closing this year for renovations.

Milberry said that the union has been working hard to ensure that all members rights are protected, “during this very difficult and stressful process.”

Members can choose whether they want to take a buyout of up to $65,000, depending on years of service to the company, or if they want to continue working under the FreshCo name.

The union has been appealing the decision handed down on Dec. 19 by mediator Vince Ready, who was appointed early last year by the Minister of Labour to resolve the collective agreement at the stores.

“That was a big and complex decision and the two parts we are appealing is the FreshCo collective agreement. We don’t agree with it. It’s a lesser collective agreement. It’s a discount collective agreement and we don’t believe our members are discount employees,” said Milberry.

“The second piece we are appealing is Sobey’s right to convert to FreshCo in the first place,” she added.

The union has appealed to the B.C. Court of Appeals, as well as the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

Sobey’s Inc. says it will continue to operate temporary pharmacies at locations where there were such departments, while renovations and construction are underway and that “there will be no interruption in patient care or customer files.”

The company also stated that it is working with employees and unions to ensure the terms of their collective agreements are met as they work through this transition.

“As always, we will expend every effort to place employees in other stores within our store network in B.C.,” read the press release.

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