A group of 20 customers and supporters took part in a socially distant protest at a Victoria grocery store on April 16 to demand hazard pay for the employees working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protesters interrupted regular business at Lifestyle Markets’ location on Douglas Street by banging pots and pans “in an ode to the store’s essential workers,” reads a statement from the Retail Action Network. According to the statement, demonstrators respected social distancing regulations and wore cloth masks as they set up around the store and occupied the aisles to participate in a “noise demo.”
Two weeks ago, Lifestyle Markets’ staff launched a campaign seeking hazard pay and paid sick days.
“We are weeks into a campaign, trying to get even the slightest response from the employer. They are ignoring the demands of the staff, and disrespecting our community in the process,” says Eric Nordal, a member of the Retail Action Network.
Lifestyle Markets’ owner Lorraine Peterson, was present for the protest on Thursday when a petition signed by more than 280 community members was delivered.
Lifestyle Markets’ staff recently voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1518 and are in the process of bargaining a first agreement.
“There is a newly certified bargaining unit and the employer has invited the union to provide a draft collective agreement. The union is free to propose whatever terms it likes and the employer will respond,” said Michael McGregor, legal counsel for Lifestyle Markets.
“However, the employer will not respond to intimidation tactics outside of the well-established collective bargaining process which is ongoing, by RAN or any of the Market’s employees — some of whom seem prepared to harm the employer’s business.”
According to the Labour Relations Board, collective bargaining is initiated when either the union or the employer serves the other party with a notice in writing to commence bargaining. Once a notice has been served, the employer is not entitled to increase or decrease the rate of pay for the employees “or alter any other term or condition of their employment until four months after certification or until a collective agreement is negotiated, whichever occurs first.”