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Superstore tentative deal announced on Facebook and Twitter

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Early Monday Oct 7th morning around 4am, after "around the clock negotiations" between UFCW Local 401 union officials and Loblaw bargaining team, a tentative new collective agreement was reached in principle.

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The news of the tentative agreement was first announced early in the morning (4:39am MT) via a UFCW Local 401 Facebook status message stating the union negotiating committee is "unanimously recommending the settlement and immediate arrangements will be made to give union members across the province a chance to vote on the deal." Later in the afternoon, UFCW Local 401 announced in another Facebook status message and a news release PDF file that union members meetings will be held at the following locations Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 at 1:00pm & 7:00pm and the ratification voting will be held from 1:00pm to 9:00pm (or later if necessary).

"Edmonton - Shaw Conference Centre, 9797 Jasper Avenue, Hall B

Calgary - Calgary Telus Convention Centre, 120 9 Avenue SE, Exhibition Hall E

Fort McMurray - Stonebridge Fort McMurray Hotel, 9713 Hardin Street, Clearwater Room

Lethbridge - Holiday Inn Lethbridge, 2375 Mayor Magrath Drive S, Scenic Room

Lloydminster - West Harvest Inn, 5620 44 Street, Room TBA

Medicine Hat - Holiday Inn Express, 9 Strachan Bay SE, Cactus Room

Camrose - Norsemen Inn, 6505 48 Ave, Salon A

Red Deer - Red Deer Lodge, 4311 49 Avenue, Rosedale Room

Grand Prairie - Pomeroy Hotel & Conference Centre, 11633 100 Street, Poplar Room"

The union stated that the picketing will continue and Superstore employees are asked to maintain picket lines. While there are few details in the announcement, the union states "the new agreement will present employees with a number of significant improvements over and above the company’s last offer. We strongly believe that these improvements will bring new hope to employment at Superstores & Liquorstores."

(Oct 7th, 5pm MT Update: UFCW Local 401 Communications Rep Christine McMeckan said the ratification voting results will be counted immediately after the voting is finished. And the results should be available by Wednesday morning. McMeckan was unable to provide further details of the tentative agreement (e.g. hours) as the union want its member to hear about the details directly from them.)

Social Media Battlefields

You can read more about the "physical battlefields" of the Alberta Superstore strike in this previous article. It is interesting to note the increasing important role played by social media communications via Facebook status and comments, Tweets, Twitter photos, YouTube videos, etc have played a more important roles.

While it is too early to draw any definitive conclusions there are clear differences of how businesses/employers (Loblaw/Superstore in this case) and striking union employees and their supporters' use of Social Media tools.

Superstore's two and only two strike related tweets, one on Sunday Oct 6th, 12:56pm MT "#Alberta customers: Our stores are open for you from 8am-10pm daily despite the strike; we continue to negotiate." and another one on Monday Oct 7th, 7:56am MT "#Alberta customers: We’ve reached a tentative agreement with UFCW Canada Local 401. Stores remain open to serve customers." were designed to emphasize stores remain open during the strike and attempting to mitigate the risk of customers simply shopping at Wal-Mart, Safeway and other alternatives.

In contrast, the union has not only used Twitter and Facebook to effectively communicate their intention to strike, the beginning of the actual strike starting at Sunday October 6th, 12:01am, and now the reaching of the tentative agreement, the union has also posted photos of striking employees at various Superstore locations and retweeted supporters' messages to generate public sympathy and support and to add pressure during the around the clock negotiation process. In a sense, the days of the unions and striking employees relying on traditional media (TV or newspapers) to keep the public/customers informed and engaged, and add pressure to the employers are over because the union, the striking employees and their supporters can generate a lot of the attention themselves and the employers have to worry about their public image especially when the competitions are close-by and waiting to take customers away temporarily or permanently.

Time is of the Essence

Finally, here is a timeline of the various announcements today (Oct 7th, Monday) in case you care:

* 4:39am, UFCW Local 401 Facebook status, "ATTENTION SUPERSTORE & LIQUORSTORE WORKERS! PROUD AND ENTHUSIASTIC PICKET LINES RESULT IN TENTATIVE NEW COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT!!! Around the clock negotiations between union officials and Loblaw bargaining team [...]"

* 8:11am, UFCW Local 401 Tweet, "We've reached a tentative deal with #Loblaw. Thanks to all who provided support http://ow.ly/pzijG #canlab #ItsAboutFairness #ufcw"

* 7:56am, Superstore Tweet, "#Alberta customers: We’ve reached a tentative agreement with UFCW Canada Local 401. Stores remain open to serve customers."

* 9:15am, CNW traditional press release, "Loblaw Companies Limited and UFCW Local 401 reach tentative agreement"

* 1:25pm, UFCW Local 401 Facebook status, "Meeting and voting time and locations have been announced for ratification of the tentative agreement between Superstore and Liquorstore workers and Loblaw. [...]"

P.S. May be the UFCW Local 401 Facebook and Twitter accounts were handled by two different persons as it would have been even a better execution if the Facebook status and tweet were both posted at 4:39am.

Disclosure: As a long time Superstore customer, this reporter is glad to see this strike is almost over and the approximately 8,500 employees from the 55 Real Canadian Superstore & Liquorstore locations in Alberta can get back to work.

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