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Jan 30, 2019

Safeway parent wins approval for staff buyouts in B.C. amid FreshCo expansion

Empire gets approval for Safeway staff buyouts in B.C.

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Empire Co. (EMPa.TO) said it has been given the green light to offer voluntary buyouts to its Safeway employees in British Columbia as the company looks to improve its performance in Western Canada.

The labour decision made by a special officer appointed by the B.C. government paves the way for Empire, which is also the parent of grocery chain Sobeys, to convert some of its stores in the province to its discount FreshCo banner.

“We are in the midst of turning around our Western Canadian stores,” CEO Michael Medline said in release Tuesday. “This decision in B.C. is a major building block in improving our customer service, employee relations, profitability and flexibility in the West.”

The Nova Scotia-based company also said the ruling will help it better manage labour and operational costs in B.C.  

Empire estimates the buyouts could result in a $35-million charge in the third quarter of this year, depending on how many employees take up the offer.

Empire first announced last year its plans to expand its FreshCo banner into Western Canada by converting approximately 25 per cent of its 255 Safeway and Sobeys full-service stores.

Two Manitoba locations were announced in July, while 10 B.C. locations were revealed on Tuesday.

Empire said the B.C. Safeway locations that will be converted to FreshCo stores include:

- Abbotsford

- Aldergrove

- Downtown Chilliwack

- Ladner

- Maple Ridge

- Mission

- Broadmoor, Richmond

- Blundell, Richmond

- Strawberry Hills, Surrey

- Newton, Surrey