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Grocery chain Metro reaches tentative deal with Unifor workers

Metro Inc. and Unifor have reached a tentative agreement, just over a month after thousands of the grocer’s employees went on strike across the Greater Toronto Area, the company announced Wednesday.

The deal comes after both parties returned to the negotiating table Tuesday after the company won a court injunction stopping picketers from blocking its warehouses and preventing deliveries at 27 Metro grocery stores in the GTA — exactly one month after the strike action began.

Details of the tentative deal were not immediately available. 

The company says the agreement will be submitted to the employees for a ratification vote. The vote is expected to take place “in coming days,” according to the union.

“Our union was able to negotiate this new tentative agreement due to the unwavering commitment of our Metro grocery members who were united in their goal to improve their wages and working conditions,” said Unifor President Lana Payne in a statement Wednesday.

“I commend the workers and the bargaining committee for their solidarity and also the customers who supported them during this difficult time.”

The employees went on strike on July 29 after rejecting an earlier tentative agreement that the union described as the best offer in decades.

During the weeks-long dispute, Metro workers began secondary picket lines at two distribution centres, preventing stores from receiving fresh products, a move for which the grocer was granted a temporary injunction.

Since their last contract, workers say they have faced a global pandemic, skyrocketing inflation and rising interest rates.

Metro employees had been asking for higher wages as well as better working conditions and more full-time jobs. Some workers have said they struggle to afford buying groceries at their own stores.

The union had said workers wanted a bigger share of Metro’s profits, which had risen in recent years, with some workers saying they wanted their pandemic “hero pay” — an extra $2 an hour — reinstated.

WATCH | Metro employee recounts affordability struggle during strike: 

Toronto Metro worker says living paycheque to paycheque is an ‘understatement’

30 days ago

Duration 1:40

Meat manager Austin Coyle is among more than 3,000 front-line grocery store workers on strike. He said he worked seven days a week nearly the entire month of July but still worries about affording rent for his two-bedroom apartment in Scarborough.

A recent study from the Competition Bureau found that the country’s three largest grocers, Metro included, collectively reported more than $100 billion in sales and $3.6 billion in profits last year.

This round of bargaining was the first for Unifor in a two-year stretch of negotiations for more than a dozen collective agreements with the major grocers. The union has said it hopes the Metro deal will help set a precedent for those upcoming talks.

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