Co-op Atlantic sells-out to Sobeys | What's Left

On June 25, Co-op Atlantic (a collectively owned consumers' cooperative found throughout the Maritimes) announced that it was selling its grocery and gas business to Sobeys. As part of the sale, 400 jobs will be eliminated along with the closure of several Co-op Atlantic Distribution Centres.

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In the deal (approved by Co-op delegates and the central board with no communication to members), Sobeys (a subsidiary of Empire Company Ltd.*) acquired Co-op’s wholesale business and several Co-op grocery stores. The day following the acquisition, workers at the newly purchased stores were told to prepare for inventory liquidation and search for new jobs. Locally-owned Co-op locations that were not sold have been informed that they will now have to deal exclusively with Sobeys as their wholesaler.

The principles of the Co-op have been under attack increasingly over the past 20 years. Eighteen years ago the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce complained about Co-op’s pricing of jeans, followed by several suppliers withdrawing their brands from store shelves. Co-op was also not allowed to provides member discounts for gas and had to give members Co-op cash instead (in contrast, Costco was given approval to provide gas discounts to its members).

Despite the declaration on the Co-op membership card that members own and control the business to benefit their communities, and that co-operation represents democracy in action, members have not been allowed any say in the sale. The Co-op board is behaving with the same ideology as any corporation – focusing on larger profits at the expense of smaller shareholders and workers.

/*Empire Company Ltd. is a multi-billion dollar corporation that owns a dozen other food chains including: Food Town, Foodland, FreshCo, IGA, Price Chopper, Thrifty Foods, Target’s Grocery business, Safeway, and up until 2013 it also ran almost 80 movie theatres./

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