Metro is donating perishable items to food banks as thousands of workers at several of its grocery stores across the Greater Toronto Area remain on strike in a push for better wages.
Some 3,700 members of Unifor Local 414 walked off the job Saturday after rejecting a collective bargaining agreement, effectively shuttering operations at the 27 stores where they work.
Metro said food from the closed stores that couldn't be sold was being sent to food banks, noting it has had partnerships with food banks in place for years.
"All perishables products that could still be sold have been transferred to other stores. Those that can’t be sold but are still good for consumption are donated to food banks," it wrote in a statement.
The CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, which has been receiving donations from Metro this week, said the rise in the number of people turning to food banks in recent years has been "startling."
"What we're seeing is more and more people who are deriving their income from employment having to still rely on food charity," Neil Hetherington said in a phone interview.
Income insecurity, precarious employment and a shortage of affordable housing are all factors in people needing to use food banks, Hetherington said.
People who have two part-time jobs without benefits, as well as family needs that have to be met, are often among those who turn to food banks, he said.
"We (need to) get to a better economy where every member within that economy can afford to live and work within the city that they reside," he said.
Striking Metro workers have been calling for an improved wage offer from the grocery chain to address the significant affordability challenges they say they face.
Metro has voiced disappointment with the job action.
When the strike began, Unifor National President Lana Payne said grocery store jobs that were once considered stable sources of family income have largely morphed into part-time roles that are inadequate to address today's higher cost of living.
Payne said 70 per cent of jobs at Metro are now part-time.
Metro's vice-president of public affairs, Marie-Claude Bacon, has said part-time workers have opportunities to improve their prospects, noting the company has an unspecified number of full-time vacancies it has not been able to fill from its part-time ranks over the past two years.
As the strike entered its fifth day, neither side has indicated when bargaining talks may resume.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2023.
Nairah Ahmed, The Canadian Press