Cornwall grocery store employees strike over pay
Nearly 100 employees of Baxtrom's Independent Grocer in Cornwall remain on strike.
Picketing day and night and demanding a fair and living wage, the striking employees are asking owner John Baxtrom to return to the bargaining table.
"These are unionized workers. They should expect to be making something that is not hovering around minimum wage." said union leader Roland Lapins of UFCW Local 1006A.
Employees, like Shannon Sturgess have worked at the store for more than 20 years. Sturgess said ever since the minimum wage increase, the gap has closed between long-time employees and new hires.
"I don't think it's fair that people are walking in off the street right now making the same wage that I am, and I've been there for 24 years."
The union argues owner John Baxtrom won't negotiate after walking away from negotiations last year. Baxtrom said he's upset it's come to this point in collective bargaining.
“I am disappointed that we have not been able to come to an agreement. I am committed to fairness for my employees, but as an independent store owner, I need to find a balance between the need for my business to remain competitive while continuing to offer my employees competitive wages and benefits."
Baxton said he has run a grocery store in the community for a long time and remains committed to serving customers; thankful and grateful to employees who have continued to work for him.
Striking employees here at Baxtrom’s Your Independent Grocer in Cornwall walked off the job in November asking for a fair wage increase - we’ll find out what’s going on @ctvottawa pic.twitter.com/wM3o1FcQap— Mike Arsalides (@MArsalidesCTV) 9 January 2019
Most of the 20 employees who crossed the picket lines to work have been labelled traitors and scabs by union members.
"We're out here and we're fighting for them; that stabbed us in the back. Whatever comes of this, whatever help we get, whatever comes good for us, they're going to receive the same." said Sandra Mattice; a store employee of 21 years.
The union said most of the employees are paid 14 dollars an hour; it is unclear how much they have asked to be paid or how much colleagues at other Loblaw-owned stores earn. Shoppers at the store remain committed to the local owner and employees on the job.
"My loyalty to the store is they've always given me good service and from what i understand, the employees are asking for an awful lot." said Doug Hart.
Some shoppers who crossed the picket lines to enter the store asked the workers return to the job and end the strike. "They should go back to work, because they're losing money. Not just the store that's losing money, they're losing money. That's why I feel bad for them." said Lillian Pecore.
Elsewhere, grocery shoppers, at the insistence of the striking employees, say they have made a conscious effort to avoid Baxtrom's Independent Grocer.
"I will not cross that line until they get it settled because it's a sign of respect and if they're on strike, it's for a good reason." said Bonnie Joyce, who said her mother served as a union president for 25 years.
Others said they understand the arguments from both sides. "I feel very bad for the employees and I also feel very bad for the owner, because unions do things that sometimes don't favour everybody and it ends up that everyone's a loser." said
The independent grocer's parent company Loblaw saying it supports franchisees, providing services during negotiations. "To clarify, this is not a Loblaw negotiation...ultimately the decision lies with the store owner and the union." A spokesperson said of the on-going labour dispute.