Saskatoon Co-op employees voted in favour of ending a five-and-a-half-month strike, their union confirmed late Tuesday evening.
It is not clear when the roughly 900 affected employees will be back at work, but they agreed to what has been described as a “tentative agreement” to end the labour dispute.
That deal emerged Sunday, though neither union nor management has released any details of what it contains. It was a narrow decision: 270 union members voted in favour of the deal, while 230 voted against it.
The strike began Nov. 1 when United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1400 members, who had been without a contract for almost two years, rejected a contract offer that would have created a lower wage tier for new hires.
The strike soon became acrimonious. There were allegations of vandalism, intimidation by private security guards hired to oversee picket lines and attempts to unseat Saskatoon Co-op directors.
Ultimately, the union’s negotiation team proposed its own version of a second wage tier, with smaller differences, leading one University of Saskatchewan labour relations expert to suggest that “the Trojan horse is through the gate.”
Months passed with little action at the bargaining table. Saskatoon Co-op also rejected repeated offers by the union to take the matter to binding arbitration — which would have ended the strike but created risks for both parties.
UFCW Local 1400 members were presented with the proposal and given an opportunity to vote on it during a series of meetings on Tuesday.
The strike affected around 900 workers at around 20 locations in and around Saskatoon, all of which have since re-opened with a staff made up of temporary workers and union members who crossed the picket line.
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