HBC strike nears fourth month

"Nearly half" of those on the picket lines are TRU students

Over three months since the strike began, Hudson’s Bay (HBC) workers are ramping up awareness efforts as negotiations remain locked at a standstill.

On Dec. 10, the HBC workers began striking following unsuccessful bargaining talks.

As a representative on behalf of the Kamloops store, USW Local 1-417 Financial Secretary Jordan Lawrence said various issues caused this strike.

“Not only were [HBC negotiators] not willing to give any decent amount of raise, they wanted to take away language [in existing agreements]. They wanted to take away things that people had worked 30 years to earn,” Lawrence said.

According to Lawrence, only one other unionized HBC store exists in British Columbia. In recent weeks, strikers have been visiting nearby ununionized branches to spread awareness about their strike.

“We aren’t allowed to picket at other locations… but we are allowed to get people there to provide information, whether [to] its patrons or just shoppers at the mall,” Lawrence said. “We’ve sent some HBC workers who are on strike to both HBC Vernon and HBC Kelowna to do a little bit of pamphleting.”

Lawrence said this approach is “going well,” and the main goal is to ask the public to “support the cause.”

Lawrence estimated that nearly half of the 44 workers on strike at HBC Kamloops are TRU students. William Howard, a communications major in his final semester, is one such student who said that inconsistent hours recently have been difficult for part-time workers.

“Going to school, they were very flexible… it was a good job with good give-and-take at the start,” Howard, who has worked at the Bay sporadically for the past 10 years, said.

Howard has held various job roles at HBC over the past decade. He speaks fondly about his co-workers but expressed disappointment with how negotiations have gone.

“It was just a very big slap in the face to all the people that have worked here for a long time,” Howard said. “Because it was a very good place to work and we’ve given a lot [negotiating] room in the past.”

Over three months into the strike, Howard plans on picketing until an agreement is reached or the store is closed. He pointed to social media as a potential way to spread awareness about the strike.

According to Lawrence, if negotiations remain at a standstill, the union has plans to continue ramping up their campaign.

“We’re going to try a lot of things… [like] social media [for example]. We’re trying to roll things out slowly,” Lawrence said. “The end goal is to get the employer, HBC, back to the table.”

The Omega reached out to HBC for comment but has yet to receive a response.