News Briefs

04/11/2022

Metro workers reach new deal while strike at Sobeys distribution centre continues

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Metro Ontario inc. office in Etobicoke, Toronto, Canada. Metro Inc. is a Canadian food retailer operating in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

Workers at a Metro distribution centre in Ontario have voted in favour of a new deal while workers at a Sobeys warehouse in Quebec have rejected the grocer's latest offer.

More than 900 workers at Metro Inc.'s Toronto-area distribution centre ratified a new four-and-a-half-year collective agreement Friday, ending a one-week strike.

Unifor said Metro warehouse workers in Etobicoke will receive an average wage increase of 15.8% over the lifetime of the new deal.

The union said the new collective agreement also includes higher shift premiums for freezer work, a shortened wage progression to reach the top rate, improvements to pensions and benefits and no concessions.

"This collective agreement achieves the best maximum pay rate and fastest progression in the industry,'' Unifor Ontario regional director Naureen Rizvi said in a statement. "There is no doubt that it will raise the bar for warehouse workers across Ontario.''

Carmen Fortino, executive vice-president and division head for Metro in Ontario, said in a statement the company and the union reached a "fair and reasonable'' deal that maintains competitive working conditions for employees.

Meanwhile, 190 workers at a Sobeys distribution centre in Terrebonne, Que., remain on strike after turning down the grocer's latest offer.

Kim Bergeron, a lawyer representing UFCW Canada's Local 501, said workers rejected a tentative agreement Friday with 69 per cent voting against a proposed new deal.

Pay and benefits remain the key sticking point, she said.

Sobeys spokeswoman Claudine Leblanc said the company was ``surprised and disappointed'' that workers rejected the tentative agreement recommended by the bargaining committee.

"Our teammates in Terrebonne have one of the most comprehensive and competitive agreements in Quebec,'' she said.

Workers are currently paid wages of up to $30 an hour, and the proposed deal included salary increases on top of the that, Leblanc said in an email.

"We will continue to negotiate with the union representatives so we can reach a deal very soon,'' she said.

Sobeys has contingency plans in place to ensure customers continue to receive the same service and products at IGA stores across the province, Leblanc added.

-The Canadian Press

04/11/2022

MTY Food Group reports first quarter profit and revenue up from year ago

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MONTREAL - MTY Food Group Inc. reported its first-quarter profit rose compared with a year ago as its revenue also climbed higher.

The restaurant franchisor and operator says it earned $16.6 million or 68 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Feb. 28, up from $13.4 million or 54 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Revenue totalled $140.5 million for the quarter, up from $119 million.

MTY is the company behind more than 80 restaurant brands, including food court staples like Thai Express and Tiki-Ming, as well as many that are co-located with convenience and gas, such as Mr. Sub and Country Style. 

MTY CEO Eric Lefebvre says 75 new locations opened across MTY's network in the first quarter, making it the best first quarter in the company's history in terms of restaurant openings.

At the end of the quarter, MTY had 6,704 locations in operation, of which 89 were corporate and 6,615 were franchised.

-The Canadian Press

04/07/2022

Kinder brand chocolate recall linked to salmonella outbreak in Europe now expanded to Canada

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A recall of certain Kinder brand chocolate products linked to an outbreak of salmonella in Europe and the U.K. has been expanded to Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there have been no illnesses reported in Canada in association with the affected products distributed by Ferrero Canada Ltd.

The recalled chocolates include:

  • Kinder Schoko-Bons
  • Happy Moments - Kinder Confections Assortment
  • Kinder Mini Eggs
  • Kinder Egg Hunt Kits
  • Kinder Mix 7 Easter Treats
  • Kinder Surprise Miraculous
  • Kinder Surprise Natoons
  • Kinder Surprise

The products were sold nationally in a variety of sizes, with best before dates ranging from June 19, 2022 to Nov. 29, 2022.

The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

Salmonella poisoning can result in a wide range of symptoms, from short-term fever, headache and nausea to more serious issues including severe arthritis and, in rare cases, even death.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Wednesday the chocolate products were identified "as the likely route of infection'' in an outbreak involving 134 children mainly under 10 years of age, several of whom have been hospitalized.

The chocolates are also being recalled in Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the U.K., Norway and Sweden.

UPDATE April 12: Additional products have been added to a Canadian recall of certain Kinder brand chocolates linked to an outbreak of salmonella in Europe and the U.K.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says there have been no illnesses reported in Canada in association with the affected products distributed by Ferrero Canada Ltd.

The new recalled items include:

  • Kinder Advent Calendars
  • Kinder Surprise Frozen
  • Kinder Surprise Trolls
  • Kinder Surprise The Smurfs

The agency had previously announced a recall for Kinder Schoko-Bons, Happy Moments - Kinder Confections Assortment, Kinder Mini Eggs, Kinder Egg Hunt Kits, Kinder Mix 7 Easter Treats, Kinder Surprise Miraculous, Kinder Surprise Natoons and Kinder Surprise.

The products were sold nationally in a variety of sizes, with best before dates ranging from March 2, 2022 to Nov. 29, 2022.

The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

-The Canadian Press

04/05/2022

Quebec, P.E.I. extend mask mandates until late April to prevent spread of COVID-19

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Women shopping with mask and grocery bag

Quebec and Prince Edward Island have extended their provincial mask mandates until later this month as they try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The decisions Tuesday came several days after the Public Health Agency of Canada said a resurgence of COVID-19 is likely to be underway and encouraged Canadians to be vigilant to help curb spread of the latest variant.

P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said masks are more effective against the virus when there is a universal requirement to wear them.

"Masks do matter,'' she said. "Masks will be one of the last measures lifted.''

The plan is to require face coverings until at least April 28.

In Quebec City, interim public health director Dr. Luck Boileau said he was extending a mask mandate until the end of April due to a rise of infections and hospitalizations across the province.

Quebec officials said there were 1,479 people in hospital with COVID-19 after 219 patients were admitted in the previous 24 hours.

There were 3,619 active cases of COVID-19 in P.E.I. and 30 people were in hospital with the infection.

Morrison said cases are not growing as sharply as other jurisdictions.

"The fact that we are not seeing exponential growth may be attributed to the gradual easing of public health measures and that masks remain mandatory in indoor public places, including schools,'' she said.

P.E.I. is ending all gathering and capacity limits across the province as of midnight Tuesday.

Other provinces have resisted calls to reimpose public health restrictions, including mask mandates, even as cases have risen in some parts of the country.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Ottawa said provinces and territories should prepare to start offering fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks.

Quebec said Tuesday it would be expanding access to fourth doses, while Ontario said it would announce a plan Wednesday to start offering an additional booster to people 60 and older.

Fourth doses in Ontario are already available to long-term care and retirement home residents, as well as to those who are immunocompromised.

The Ontario government's plan comes as hospitalizations there have also been rising. The province reported 1,091 people in hospital with COVID-19, nearly 40 per cent higher than a week ago.

Ontario ended mask mandates in most public spaces two weeks ago, with the exception of public transit and health-care settings.

04/05/2022

Workers at Metro distribution centre off job in second grocery strike in two months

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Metro Ontario inc. office in Etobicoke, Toronto, Canada. Metro Inc. is a Canadian food retailer operating in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

Grocery warehouse workers in Canada appear to be holding out for better pay and benefits after the second strike at a distribution centre in as many months.

More than 900 workers at Metro Inc.'s Toronto-area distribution centre went on strike Saturday, following the nearly 200 workers at a Sobeys Inc. distribution centre in Quebec that walked off the job in February.

The job action comes as grocers post strong profits and executive bonuses while inflation eats away at the spending power of workers.

Canada's unemployment rate has also dropped below pre-pandemic levels, potentially giving workers more confidence in the bargaining process.

"The members have final say on the tentative agreement and have opted to turn down this offer,'' Chris MacDonald, Unifor assistant to the national president, said in a statement.

Metro said the offer included a 6% wage increase in the first year, with total wage increases of 14% over four years.

The grocer said the tentative agreement also included improvements to pensions and benefits.

"We are disappointed with the employees' decision to strike but remain ready to go back to the table. We have implemented our contingency plan and our stores will remain open to serve our customers,'' Carmen Fortino, executive vice-president and division head for Metro in Ontario, said in a statement.

Unifor's MacDonald said the union bargaining committee is ready to resume negotiations "in the hope of bringing this strike to a speedy end.''

The Etobicoke distribution centre supplies Metro and Food Basics grocery stores across southern Ontario. Some customers reported shelves were less full than usual, especially in the produce section, at some Metro-owned stores in the Toronto area.

Meanwhile, 190 workers at a Sobeys distribution centre in Terrebonne, Que., went on strike in February after negotiations between the company and the union broke down.

Kim Bergeron, a lawyer representing UFCW Canada's Local 501, said the pay and benefits are key sticking points. In an email, she said workers are set to vote on a tentative agreement on Friday.

In late January, the union representing workers at a Sobeys warehouse east of Toronto said it ratified a four-year contract with "massive wage increases.''

Unifor said the agreement covering more than 500 workers at the Whitby distribution centre included a full-time pay increase of 19.5% over four years.

The grocer, owned by Empire Co. Ltd., also agreed to signing bonuses, doubled its RRSP contribution and added a sixth week of vacation at 26 years of seniority, the union said.

"Through collective bargaining, we were able to deliver a strong contract that includes a considerable pay boost for existing workers as well as future hires while also levelling the playing field for our part-time members,'' said Pat Twohey, Unifor Local 1090 bargaining chairman.

-The Canadian Press

04/04/2022

Dollarama says its new $5 price tag will help offset inflation and stock new products

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Canada's largest dollar store is introducing a new $5 price tag as it looks to recoup higher costs and bring in new products.

Dollarama Inc. said Wednesday the roll out of additional price points up to $5 will help the retail chain maintain and enhance its product assortment and value.

"There will be a gradual ramp up starting mid-year and becoming more noticeable through the second half of the year,'' Neil Rossy, Dollarama president and CEO, said during a call with analysts. "This brings additional flexibility to manage cost pressures in a heightened inflationary environment.''

But the store is "extremely sensitive to this not simply being a markup tool,'' he added.

"It enables us to deepen our broad and compelling product assortment,'' Rossy said. "It allows us to bring in goods that we've never been able to buy because they weren't in our price range.''

His comments came as the retailer raised its dividend and reported its fourth-quarter profit and sales rose compared with a year ago.

Dollarama hiked its quarterly dividend by 10% to 5.53 cents per share, up from 5.03 cents per share.

The company reported a profit of $220 million or 74 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Jan. 30 compared with a profit of $173.9 million or 56 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Sales totalled $1.22 billion, up from $1.1 billion in the same quarter last year, helped by an increase in the number of stores and a 5.7 per cent uptick in comparable store sales.

Looking forward, Dollarama said it expects to benefit from a more upbeat sales environment in the coming months compared with the same period last year when pandemic restrictions limited non-essential shopping.

However, the company cautioned that supply chain and other inflationary pressures are expected to be felt more this year.

"Our procurement and logistics teams have been working relentlessly to ensure that stores are well-stocked, especially from a seasonal perspective,'' Rossy said.

The challenge isn't supply but rather getting goods into Dollarama's warehouses and on store shelves, he said.

"The supply is really very stable,'' Rossy said. "It's more a question of logistics challenges between the supply and the store and that involves mostly overseas challenges and port challenges (and) a little bit of trucking challenges.''

Still, Dollarama has an ample buffer built into its business model, which means even if seasonal products arrive at the company's warehouses later than usual they will still hit store shelves on time, he said.

"We can cover these issues and mitigate those risks better than most,'' Rossy said.

Meanwhile, Dollarama said it expects its new warehouse in Laval, Que., to open by the end of its current fiscal year, increasing its storage capacity and supporting its long-term target of 2,000 stores in Canada by 2031.

Dollarama opened 24 net new stores in the quarter, for a total of 1,421 stores at the end of January.