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Metro MRU-T workers at 27 grocery stores across the Greater Toronto Area reached a tentative agreement with the grocery giant just after midnight, narrowly avoiding a strike.

“This is a milestone agreement that underscores Unifor’s deep commitment to grocery workers in the retail sector and our important work to advance their workplace rights,” said Unifor’s national president Lana Payne in a statement early Wednesday morning.

The workers, represented by Unifor, headed into bargaining on June 26 with a 100 per cent strike mandate in hand, and bargaining continued Tuesday leading up to an 11:59 p.m. strike deadline. A strike would have affected some 3,700 workers across the GTA.

“This agreement will lay the foundation for grocery workers across the country as workers, both unionized and non-unionized, make clear their urgent need for improved working conditions amidst a chronic affordability crisis,” said Payne.

Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until the deal has been presented to members for a ratification vote in the coming week, Unifor said.

The union has said its priorities for Metro workers were improving pay and access to benefits, as well as improving working conditions and stability.

Unifor is preparing to bargain more than a dozen collective agreements with the major grocers over the next two years, with this Metro contract the first of the group.

Payne previously said the union plans to pattern bargain, meaning the Metro deal could help set a precedent for the upcoming rounds of negotiations.

She said that after working through a pandemic and now an affordability crisis, grocery workers are fed up.

“Frontline grocery workers, at Metro and beyond, face immense challenges–from not being able to afford food or rent, to having unpredictable schedules that prevent them from being with family–which is exactly why members were willing to fight in order to improve their working conditions,” said Unifor Local 414 president Gord Currie in the press release.

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