Sobeys says FreshCo rebranding aims to offer more discounted shopping, union calls it 'destabilizing'
People enter a FreshCo store in Mission, B.C. on Thursday, April 25, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
EDMONTON -- The union representing Alberta Safeway workers believes a plan to rebrand six locations as FreshCo stores is unnecessary, but Sobeys Inc. says the decision aims to give customers more options to discounted shopping.
FreshCo is a chain of discount grocery stores owned by Sobeys Inc., which also owns Safeway. The chain announced Monday six Alberta stores would be moved to the FreshCo moniker.
But United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 believes the move is the wrong one.
“Sobeys shouldn’t be taking advantage of people,” Thomas Hesse, UFCW president, said.
“People are very anxious. Customers yearn for stability. Employees yearn for stability. Everyone knows the retail landscape in Canada is changing, but there is absolutely no need to do this at this time.
"We think it is very destabilizing."
In a statement to CTV News Edmonton, FreshCo's parent company explained it wanted to "meet everyone's shopping needs."
"By opening a new FreshCo location we’ll be able to offer even more of our customers access to our discount shopping experience."
According to a press release from the company, the stores offer price matching, an in-stock guarantee with a rain check and 10 per cent off, and a replacement and reimbursement guarantee on freshness of products.
The parent company, Empire, added the union was aware changes were coming after labour negotiations.
"So this announcement was no surprise to them. Both parties agreed on extremely fair terms for our teammates," said Jacquelin Weatherbee, Empire's vice president of communications and corporate affairs.
Hesse did mention employees weren’t completely blindsided by the move, and said that contingencies had been written into contracts for such a situation.
“There is a measure of acceptance,” Hesse said. “We really prepared for this with workers. And because these workers have a union, there will be some very generous severance packages if they want them in the range of $60,000. Employees, if they want to, will have bumping rights into other stores, and they will have the option of working at the converted [FreshCo] store.”
Three locations in Edmonton and one in St. Albert will be converted with the exception of pharmacies:
- Millbourne Mall, Edmonton, AB
- Coliseum, Edmonton, AB
- Palisades Square, Edmonton, AB
- Gateway Village Mall, St. Albert, AB
Renovations are slated to start in the spring and could last up to five months before reopening.
There are also two Calgary Safeway locations being converted.