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Safeway jobs and benefits safe in Greater Victoria: Overwaitea boss

Transition to Save-On-Foods branding to begin next month at local stores

The sale of four Greater Victoria Safeway stores to Overweitea Food Group last Thursday won’t impact current employees, says the company’s president.

Safeway locations at Fort and Foul Bay roads, Tillicum Mall, University Heights mall and in Sidney’s Beacon Plaza  will transition to Save-on-Foods between mid-March and early May, as part of a 15-store purchase by Overwaitea across B.C. and Alberta. The move affects about 400 unionized employees in the Capital Region.

“We’ve let the team members and store managers know that all pay and benefits they currently have under their contracts will remain in place,” said Darryl Jones, Overwaitea Food Group president.

Safeway locations in Port Alberni, Ladysmith and Duncan, and a Thrifty Foods in Nanaimo are also part of the sale, meaning Safeway will vanish from Vancouver Island altogether.

“The face of retail food is really changing dramatically in B.C., and it’s a bit disappointing to see the Safeway banner disappear from the Island, but we’ll roll with it,” said Andy Neufeld, communications director for United Food and Commercial Workers 1518, which represents both Safeway and Save-on-Foods employees.

Neufeld said new employee contracts will be “virtually identical” to the current agreements, and that all benefits and pensions will remain in place for existing employees.

“The important thing for Safeway members is they won’t go backwards under a new contract,” he said. “We are really delighted Overwaitea has stepped up and taken over these stores.”

Sobeys purchased 213 Canada Safeway stores for $5.8 billion last year, triggering a sell-off of 23 stores deemed too close to one another under Canadian Competition Bureau regulations.

Sobeys added another nine Safeway stores to its final sale. Overwaitea purchased 15, while Federated Co-operatives Ltd. bought 14 locations across Western Canada.

“We’ve been on Vancouver Island since 1918, so this really feels like home for us,” Jones said.