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    Loblaw, Union Reach Tentative Agreement to Head Off Strike

    TORONTO -- Loblaw Cos., Ltd. here said Friday that its Loblaws Supermarkets, Zehrs Markets, Fortino's, and the Real Canadian Superstores banners reached a tentative collective agreement with the UFCW locals 1977, 175, 633 and 1000A.

    TORONTO -- Loblaw Cos., Ltd. here said Friday that its Loblaws Supermarkets, Zehrs Markets, Fortino's, and the Real Canadian Superstores banners reached a tentative collective agreement with the UFCW locals 1977, 175, 633 and 1000A.

    "After weeks of difficult and complex negotiations and round-the-clock bargaining, UFCW Canada and Loblaw...have been able to reach a tentative agreement," confirmed Wayne Hanley, national director of the United Food and Commercial Workers of Canada, in a statement. "This is a good collective agreement for our members reflecting all the dynamics that have been involved in these negotiations."

    The union locals will unanimously recommend the agreement to its members for ratification, according to a Loblaws statement.

    Earlier, almost 30,000 union members voted more than 95 percent to go on strike. A key issue in the negotiations concerned Loblaw's desire to cut costs so it could lower prices in emulation of its up-and-coming rival, Wal-Mart, which is just entering the Canadian grocery arena. According to Dow Jones, another alleged Wal-Mart-related bone of contention was that Loblaw reportedly wished to convert conventional stores to its Real Canadian Superstore format, which resembles that of the Bentonville, Ark.-based megaretailer.

    The UFCW members will hold meetings in the near future to decide whether to ratify the proposed settlement, according to the union.

    Loblaw is Canada's largest food distributor, and a major provider of general merchandise, drug store, and financial products and services. The company is also one of the largest private-sector employers in that country, employing over 135,000 full-time and part-time employees.

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