Workers at grocer Pete’s Frootique’s location on Dresden Row in Halifax are scheduled to go on strike on Saturday.
After months of unsuccessful bargaining for a first collective agreement, the workers voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike. The strike vote was held on Nov. 5, at which time members discussed paid sick days and raises in wages for all 95 employees.
Pete’s Frootique workers joined the Service Employees International Union Local 2 this April. Since then, Tyson Boyd, who has worked at Pete’s for almost four years and is now in the floral department, says no one has been given raises.
According to Statistics Canada, the average hourly wage in 2022 for retail workers in Nova Scotia was $20.02, which was the seventh-lowest average in all of Canada. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s consumer price index, which measures inflation, increased 4.8 per cent year-over-year in September 2023.
Nick Piovesan, who is on the bargaining committee for the union and has worked at Pete’s for nine years, sees this dispute as an inspiration for those working in similar conditions to voice their own concerns.
Piovesan says workers want to set a precedent as the first unionized grocery store in mainland Nova Scotia. He says workers want to improve conditions in their own store and “hopefully inspire other people to organize too.”
Boyd says the effect of unpaid sick leave has been significant.
“I’ve had countless coworkers come into work sick, come into work with COVID because they can’t afford to stay home,” said Boyd.
Sobeys, which has owned the Dresden Row and Bedford locations since 2015, did not comment on the ongoing contracts and bargaining.
In an emailed statement the company stated, “We continue to be engaged in good faith conversations with our valued Pete’s Frootique teammates and believe we can work toward a positive and mutually beneficial outcome. In the meantime, our store remains open without disruption.”
Piovesan says the strike vote has the potential to make positive changes for grocery store workers across the province.
“Pete’s has a lot of potential to be a really good place to work,” said Piovesan. “We had to do something about it to make it better for everyone.”
About the author
Kate is a fourth-year Journalism student in the BJH program at the University of King's College from Moncton, N.B.