PV Ontario Bureau
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) has declared its full solidarity with Metro workers in the Greater Toronto Area who are on strike against precarious work and for livable wages., Along with other grocery monopolies, Metro is recording record profits by pushing down workers’ wages and price-gouging the public in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.
“Metro workers are taking a stand and we stand with them,” said CPC (Ontario) leader Drew Garvie. The Party has mobilized its members in the GTA to support picket lines.
The 3,700 members of Unifor 414 delivered a unanimous strike mandate at a vote in June. While the tentative agreement, which the union had recommended, included a number of improvements, workers rejected it because the gains were not enough after their wages had fallen so far behind.
Like everyone else, Metro workers know that the corporate grocery monopolies have been making record profits, more than enough to pay for livable wages. Unifor says that 70 percent of Metro’s workers are part-time and earning an average of $16.62 per hour. Full-timers earn an average of $22.60 per hour. Neither group of workers earns a living wage, which was estimated to be $23.15 in the GTA last year.
“Grocery workers risked their lives and health during the pandemic,” said Garvie. “Wages at Metro only increased by 3 percent between 2019 and 2022, while inflation ate up 9.4 percent during the same period.”
Last year, when official inflation averaged 6.8 percent and topped 8 percent in some months, Metro workers received no raise. But Metro CEO Eric La Flèche sure did – his total compensation increased by 6.8 percent (coincidentally the same as inflation) to $5.4 million. Second quarter reports showed a 10 percent increase in profits over last year, with grocery prices increasing by over 10 percent over the same period.
Five corporations – Loblaw, Sobeys, Metro, Costco and Walmart – control 75 percent of the whole country’s grocery market. As Garvie notes, “this unrestrained power of corporate monopolies is the principal driver of the deepening cost-of-living crisis. The Communist Party joins Metro workers on the picket lines, and is demanding higher wages and real action by governments to roll back prices on necessities such as food, fuel and rent.”
Solidarity from nurses’ union
In an important show of private and public sector unity, immediately after the Metro strike began on July 29, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) issued a message of solidarity on behalf of its 68,000 members.
“Both grocery workers and healthcare workers showed up every day of the pandemic to meet the needs of Ontarians, at great risk to our own health and safety,” said ONA President Erin Ariss. “Grocery workers deserve their fair share of record profits, and nurses and healthcare professionals stand with them against corporate greed.”
Like grocery workers, nurses and healthcare workers in Ontario and across the country are facing declining real wages, increased precarity and eroded job quality. The ONA statement said that the union “is echoing the call for respectful compensation for grocery workers, many of whom are struggling to afford food, rent and other necessities, even as their employer’s profits soar.”
ONA is encouraging its members and the public to join picket lines and show solidarity with grocery workers.
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