Sobeys closure bumped up a month

Tyler Clarke
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Prince Albert’s Sobeys grocery store will now close on Aug. 20 -- a month earlier than the Sept. 25 closing date its 70-plus employees expected following their receiving pink slips on June 26. 

Both Prince Albert’s and Moose Jaw’s Sobeys grocery stores will now close a month earlier than previously planned.


Although the new closing date of both stores is now Aug. 20 instead of Sept. 25, employees will continue to be paid until the initial closing date.

“It’s nothing earthshattering by any stretch, but it’s something that we’re pleased to be able to negotiate for those members,” United food and Commercial Workers Local 1400 president Norm Neault said.

“I think it lifts their spirits up somewhat … It gives them a little bit of security until the end of Sept. 25, anyway.”

The union has also negotiated one week of severance pay per year of service and workplace adjustment programs, which will provide resume writing and job search skills, as well as link employees up with Service Canada.

When it comes to employment insurance, “many of them have probably never applied for it,” Neault noted.

The extra month easing in period was decided at a meeting on Tuesday between the union, the employer and a couple representative committee members from the Prince Albert and Moose Jaw stores.

With an extra five weeks’ of paid leave to find alternative employment, laid off employees have an extra leg up, Neault said, noting that while this is good news for store staff it pales in comparison to the negative blow dealt by Sobeys’ closure notice.

It’s nothing earthshattering by any stretch, but it’s something that we’re pleased to be able to negotiate for those members. Norm Neault

On June 27, about 70 employees in Prince Albert and between 60 to 65 in Moose Jaw were given pink slips.

The two stores’ closure is linked with Sobeys Inc.’s $5.8 billion purchase of Safeway Inc. in 2013.

"Really, it's part of our regular business process … on a regular basis, we evaluate our operations, store network and performance and determine if we're at where we need to be," said Keri Scobie, a spokesperson for the company, explained at the time.

"When we looked across the network, these stores were under-performing … the decision was made to close them."

Although employees have been given a helping hand in their transition away from Sobeys, Neault said that the union is simply doing their best given the negative circumstances.

The employees are a keen bunch who Neault hopes will find employment by the time their severance packages end.

“That’s been a good group in both locations, and they’ve worked hard over the years to maintain that business for the company, so I’m sure they’ll continue to do the good work they do, despite the fact that they’ll be looking for other opportunities.”

Organizations: Sobeys Inc., Prince Albert, Service Canada Safeway Inc.

Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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