Workers at the Hudson’s Bay store at Aberdeen Mall in Kamloops, B.C., have walked off the job after their union and the company were unable to reach a wage agreement.

United Steelworkers union Local 1-417, which represents the workers, says talks have been ongoing since July without success.

It says it met with Hudson’s Bay and a mediator at the B.C. Labour Relations Board on Tuesday but could not reach an agreement, adding that the company didn’t budge on its proposal of a one-per-cent wage increase for each year of the contract.

The union says it issued a 72-hour strike notice to the company on Wednesday and the job action officially began at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, affecting around 50 workers.

A man holding a sandwich board reading 'USW Local 1-417 ON STRIKE' stands next to a closed store door.
Jordan Lawrence, the USW Local 1-417 financial secretary, says Hudson’s Bay was trying roll back gains that had been made in previous collective agreements. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

The union is encouraging the public to avoid shopping at the store until the labour dispute is resolved. A sign on the door said the store was temporarily closed Sunday.

Jordan Lawrence, USW Local 1-417 financial secretary, said the job action comes at the busiest holiday time for the business and aims to “send a message loud and clear that this is unacceptable.”

“Our members will not put up with these bullying tactics from the company any longer,” he said.

“We encourage customers to shop at the mall but respectfully ask that they honour our legal picket line and find their gifts elsewhere.”

The picket lines will only be set up outside the Hudson’s Bay entrances at the mall, Lawrence added.

Picketing workers outside a Hudson's Bay store in cold weather.
Striking workers have encouraged shoppers to honour the picket line. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

In an interview with CBC News, Lawrence said the store’s workers unionized in 1993 after a nine-month strike.

“We want these workers to go back to work. We want people to be able to get their gifts at the Bay,” he said. “But these workers are more important right now.”

While Lawrence said he could not get into specifics on the bargaining language being used by the company, he said Hudson’s Bay was attempting to roll back gains that had been made in previous collective agreements.

Angie Bains, who has worked at Hudson’s Bay for 42 years — including four at the Kamloops location — says that workers do not like to be out in the cold on picket lines, but the rising cost of living forced their hand.

“We just want to be treated fairly and equitably,” she told CBC News. “What the company is offering simply is not enough.”

A woman in a pink puffer jacket smiles as she holds up a sign on a picket line.
Angie Bains, who has worked at Hudson’s Bay for 4 decades, characterized her employer’s initial offer to the union as a ‘slap in the face.’ (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Bains said the company’s initial offer was a wage increase of 17 cents an hour, which she categorized as a “slap in the face.”

According to Lawrence, there is one other unionized Hudson’s Bay store in B.C., located in Victoria.

Hudson’s Bay said in a statement that it appreciates the hard work of its store associates and remains committed to the bargaining process and reaching a resolution.

“We regret the disruption in our Kamloops store and hope to return to serving our customers as soon as possible,” Hudson’s Bay said in its statement.

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