Zellers drug store to stay open in Maple Ridge

Union not happy with changes, after Overwaitea Food Group agreed last month to buy Zellers’ pharmacy business

Zellers pharmacies remain open – “business as usual” – according to the sign in Haney Place Mall.

Zellers pharmacies remain open – “business as usual” – according to the sign in Haney Place Mall.

Zellers pharmacies remain open – “business as usual” – according to the sign in Haney Place Mall.

But change is in the works after Overwaitea Food Group agreed last month to buy Zellers’ pharmacy business, including the customer prescription files.

While Target has bought out many Zellers leases, Overwaitea bought the pharmacy business with plans to move it to drug stores in Save-On Foods, PriceSmart Foods and Cooper Foods.

“It will be a seamless transition for customers. We will communicate when we have the transition plan,” said Zellers spokesperson Tiffany Bourré.

There’s no definite timeline for how that will affect individual pharmacies in Zellers. And if some pharmacies close before the actual Zellers store closes, customers will be told directly, she added.

Bourré explained that Target decided not to acquire the pharmacy business when it bought out the leases to 189 Zellers stores across Canada last year. The company is converting about 125 of those to Target operations, including the Maple Ridge location. Target has plans to run its own pharmacies, Bourré pointed out.

Meanwhile, “Zellers reaffirms its commitment to ensuring continuity of care to all its pharmacy patients,” Zellers says on its website after its other prescription files across Canada were sold to Loblaw.

All customer information will be protected under privacy legislation, it points out.

Meanwhile, United Food and Commercial Workers Union communications director Andy Neufeld takes issue with Target’s hiring practice as it opens its new stores. Existing Zellers employees will have to apply for jobs in the store.

The union has launched a Target Fairness campaign to try to ensure that present Zellers workers will keep their jobs once the store changes to Target.

But according to Target’s website, Zellers employees will be considered along with all other applications. “Target plans to work with Zellers employees to make it easy for them to apply for jobs at Target,  and we encourage Zellers employees to attend Target job fairs, informational sessions and hiring events,” the company says.

They expect to hire between 150 to 200 employees for each store, which in some locations would be double the current workforce at Zellers.

“It seems really short-sighted to go that route. We really believe this is all about them trying to lower their labour costs at the expense of the loyalty of people who worked in those stores a long time,” Neufeld said.

Kevin Shimmin, in UFCW’s Toronto office, is in charge of the Target Fairness campaign. “We’re trying to say to Target, this isn’t right, to just terminate people.”

He said from what’s he’s seen in the U.S., Target employees have trouble working enough hours to qualify for benefits and are in a “constant state of insecurity,” as new hires are made and longer-term workers’ hours are cut.

“We’re just saying that we hope the experience in Canada will be different.”

Target spokesman Lisa Gibson pointed out that Target only bought the lease agreements of Zellers stores, not the technology or inventory.

“The agreement with Zellers is a real estate transaction involving the leasehold agreements.  We did not acquire the Zellers business.  This is important as it means that we did acquire the technology, inventory or employees – only the leasehold agreements.  Zellers employees are employees of Zellers and so their employment agreements are with Zellers.”

Neufeld said most current Zellers employees make $10 to $14 an hour. The present minimum hourly wage in B.C. is $9.50, jumping to $10.25 in May.