Canadian Markets closed

Loss of 100 Sobeys jobs in Stellarton will hurt, says mayor

1 / 3
Loss of 100 Sobeys jobs in Stellarton will hurt, says mayor

Stellarton Mayor Danny MacGillivray was looking for a bright spot on a black Friday after Sobeys announced it will lay off 100 workers in the town.

The Nova Scotia town of 4,200 will find it hard to replace those office jobs, he said.

It is the headquarters of Sobeys, Canada's second-largest grocery company, after Loblaws Supermarkets Ltd.

The grocery chain announced Friday it is cutting 800 office jobs across Canada.

The move is part of a significant change in the company's operating model, which will see its collection of five regional businesses become one national organization, said Sobeys president and CEO Michael Medline in a statement Friday.

"The creation of a smaller structure with fewer jobs has impacted our office employees only. This is one of the toughest things any company ever has to do."

'Big part of our town'

MacGillivray acknowledged that the company is the town's biggest employer and the loss will hurt.

"Sobeys is very significant to Stellarton. Sobeys started in [1907], and it started here in Stellarton," MacGillivray said Friday.  

"Actually, just recently, they donated a town square to us. They are a big part of our town and they have been since almost the beginning."

But he said there are other economic opportunities for the town.

Cannabis facility

"In the long term here in Stellarton, we are looking at hopefully some economic growth in terms of a cannabis facility located locally. Also, our business park, we are hoping to grow that. Hopefully, there will be some economic growth to offset the layoffs," MacGillivray said.

"My understanding is Sobeys is going to provide some good transitioning opportunities and support for employees who are leaving. Hopefully, those opportunities will allow the employees to upgrade and take different courses and find employment locally."

The Sobeys layoffs include 19 positions in New Brunswick, 14 in Newfoundland and Labrador and three in P.E.I.

Losses could have been worse

Pictou County businessman Sean Murray said the layoffs are fewer than what the community might have expected given the billions in losses parent group Empire was forced to write off a year or so ago.

"No, I don't believe it is a dark day at all. Certainly any change is difficult. Certainly change that affects jobs is more difficult because of the families that happen to be affected," said Murray, who headed a task force of Pictou County community and business leaders to help deal with 500 job cuts at Michelin's Granton plant in 2014.

"Sobeys employment was at historically high levels in this community, so this is right-sizing," the owner of Advocate Printing said.

He said Pictou County will have a "skilled and available labour pool" for any other companies that want to set up business in the area. 

"I also believe that a strong Sobeys means a strong Pictou County and a strong Nova Scotia," he said.

"So if they're making these changes in order to be successful and sustainable into the future, then that is very good for both the economy of our area as well the non-profit and charitable sectors they support."