A pet store in Toronto is trying to unionize but management is pushing back
Making ends meet is hard enough for shift workers in Toronto, and employees at one local branch of an international pet store chain are fighting for unionization for fairer employment, while alleging that their employer is engaging in union-busting activity.
Representing employees of the PetSmart Empress Walk location on Yonge Street in North York, a group of workers is speaking out over a plethora of conditions they allege to include poverty wages, unreliable hours, poor animal welfare, and inadequate COVID safety protocols.
As the employees' vote to unionize approaches — the decision will be made on Feb. 9 — workers at this PetSmart allege that their employer has been pushing back against the workers' efforts through what they describe to blogTO as "anti-union propaganda boded with false information and cheap scare tactics."
We are PetSmart workers in #Toronto, empress walk location. Currently we are having a Union Drive and combatting corporate union busting. Our vote will be held Wednesday please follow and spread the word. #Solidarity #union pic.twitter.com/Rl2whRzz7H— PetSmart Workers United (@PetsmartUnion) February 6, 2022
A representative of the workers tells blogTO, "it started with sheets that were put up in our staff room, stating that they [PetSmart & Management] 'do not believe' we would need to 'pay hundreds of dollars a year' to have a union speak on our behalf, and that when we voted, they hope we'd vote no."
"And despite all the [anti-union material], any pro-union piece in store was hunted down and removed, leaving many feeling as if they had no resources aside from management when it comes to the union."
Workers allege that the situation escalated when "a member of the management team suggested a store closure to her staff if the union got through," which caused panic among employees "fearful of displacement or unemployment."
Management is also being accused of hiring a "professional listener" to talk with employees, which a spokesperson for the workers claims was implemented as a "last-ditch effort."
Though employees were not obligated to sit down with this employee, the representative states that staff felt "insulted that they were expected to vent their concerns to someone with no qualifications, recognizing she was a strategically placed union-buster."
Undercover Union Busters are sent to Petsmart locations across Toronto under the guise of “professional listeners”. Company says it’s voluntary but won’t give up trying to convince you until you say yes. Please talk to them with caution pic.twitter.com/KCKOILoJkA— PetSmart Workers United (@PetsmartUnion) February 6, 2022
"Otherwise, the store has chosen to unionize for several reasons. Trivial raises yearly (which were capped at 15 cents) or none at all. Many have only seen raises as minimum wage went up in the province despite being with the company for years."
The group of workers also allege "COVID cover-up" as a factor, accusing staff of either failing or otherwise neglecting to report infections among workers.
"We hope PetSmart and the public recognize why we are doing this," the representative says. "We are tired and deserve to have our needs met. We've worked hard to preserve PetSmart's profit. Now, we're looking out for ourselves since no one else has."
When asked for comment on the allegations, a representative at PetSmart Corporate Communications tells blogTO that the company "is committed to providing a workplace culture where associates are supported and valued for their contributions and where health and safety is paramount."
The statement goes on to say that the company is "incredibly grateful to all of our store associates for their dedication to supporting pet parents and pets throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including those at the Toronto Empress Walk store."
"We are encouraging our associates at the Toronto Empress Walk location to participate in the vote process and to reach out to PetSmart leaders with any questions or concerns."
Advice that store employees are probably taking with a grain of salt.
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