Saskatoon Co-op Negotiation FAQ
November 15, 2018

Since the UFCW 1400 strike with our Saskatoon Co-op began two weeks ago, we have received questions from customers, Co-op members and employees. Until an agreement is reached, we will continue to post weekly responses to common questions that we receive.

FAQs Added December 12, 2018

Q. Couldn’t you reduce the amount of cash back you pay out to members and use that money to pay employees instead?

Co-ops are owned by their members and the main purpose of a co-op is to provide services and return benefits to these members – and we’re making decisions today that will allow us to return benefits to members in the long term.

But we also invest in our employees. Saskatoon Co-op has always compensated its employees with industry-leading wages and competitive benefits, and that will not change. Our latest offer would still see second-tier employees making up to 43% more than our competitors.

Q. Why is Saskatoon Co-op investing in renovating and opening new stores instead of investing in its employees?

A. By improving our existing stores and opening new locations, we’re both remaining relevant in the local market and investing in our employees. Over the past five years, we’ve spent over $108 million new and upgraded facilities, and because of these investments, we’ve created 250 new jobs right here in our communities.

We’ve always offered our employees industry-leading wages and competitive benefits and that is not changing. As we’ve mentioned, our last offer would still see second-tier employees paid more than our local competitors by as much as 43%.

Q. Are Saskatoon Co-op’s profits returned to Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL)?

A. No, Saskatoon Co-op’s profits are not returned to FCL. Profits earned by Saskatoon Co-op are returned to its members through equity and cash back, and are reinvested in our local community.

FCL is a separate co-operative that is owned by over 170 other retail co-operatives across Western Canada. FCL exists to serve its member Co-ops, including Saskatoon Co-op.

FAQs Added December 3, 2018

Q. Why is Saskatoon Co-op saying its offer is about competing in the long-term? Don’t you already make a profit?

A. We’re a different kind of business, but like all businesses, we have to compete and make a profit. But we have fundamentally different reasons—the right reasons—for being profitable.

We’re taking steps to make sure we can keep being profitable, because our profit has a purpose.

  • We make a profit so we can share it with all of our 116,000 members. It’s why our Co-op was created. It’s why we’re in business. Over the last five years, more than $80 million was returned to members through equity and cash back.
  • We make a profit so we can invest in our community. We do this by creating new jobs, by donating to local causes and by developing new buildings and services. In the last five years Saskatoon Co-op has invested more than $108 million in capital projects to open or renovate 18 new facilities, creating 250 new jobs in our communities. And over the last five years, we’ve donated more than $3 million to community initiatives like Merlis Belsher Place, Habitat for Humanity, United Way and the Saskatchewan Rush. If we’re not profitable, it becomes difficult to make these investments.
  • We make a profit so we can keep investing in our community for many years to come.

Q. If you care about your employees, why haven’t you settled the strike yet?

A. We do care about our employees, which is why we’ve made consistently fair offers. Our latest offer provides:

  • Good annual raises for current employees
  • Wages for new employees that are up to 43% higher than our competitors

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to reach an agreement that still allows us to compete and stay profitable in the long-term. We need to do that so we can keep investing in our community through new jobs, local donations and new buildings and services.

FAQs Added November 21, 2018

Q. Are Saskatoon Co-op employees locked out?

A. No, our employees are not locked out. We have issued a formal lock-out notice, which is common practice during a labour dispute. Providing this notice does not mean that employees are locked out and we would not lock out any employees who choose to continue serving our members and customers.

Q. Is Saskatoon Co-op cutting the wages of its employees?

A. No, we are not cutting the wages of our current employees. In fact, it has offered employees industry-leading wage increases and benefits that will be implemented retroactively to the start of the new agreement.

Q. Why is an adjusted wage structure being proposed for new employees?

A. New employees are still being offered fair wages and benefits that are competitive and, in many cases, leading among retail competitors in Saskatoon.

We are offering an adjusted wage scale to new employees to remain competitive in the local market. Most of our local unionized competitors, who are also represented by UFCW, are large national companies who have been using these types of wage scales since as early as 1995.

We have been serving our local communities for over 80 years, and we want to be here to continue serving these communities long into the future. To do that, we have to work together to find ways to compete.

FAQs Added November 15, 2018

Q. Is Saskatoon Co-op unique in offering two tiers of wages?

A. No, it has been standard in the retail industry for some time. UFCW has agreed to multiple wage tiers with our national competitors for years. UFCW has also made multiple wage tier agreements with other Co-ops, such as Moose Jaw Co-op, where a two-tier wage structure was voted in by the union in 2014 and which was agreed to again by its UFCW employees only last week.

Q. Has Saskatoon Co-op quit bargaining with the union?

A. Saskatoon Co-op has continued to provide UFCW with better offers. Bargaining continued on November 15, with additional formal bargaining dates set for the end of November. We remain open to additional meetings so that an agreement can be reached. We want to get back to serving our community together.

Q. If Saskatoon Co-op cares for its employees, why is the strike not resolved?

A. Throughout negotiations, we’ve made offers that allow our local Co-op to compete against national companies, while still providing wages for both current and new employees that, in most cases, lead amongst our national competitors in Saskatoon.

We care for our employees and want to get back to serving Saskatoon and nearby communities as soon as we can. Because this is an extremely stressful time for everyone, we’re keeping our Employee Family Assistance Program open for all employees, including those still working and those on the picket line.

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