1 in 5 Investors Demand Dollarama do More to Protect Global Supply Chain Workers, including at Quebec-Based Warehouse and Distribution Centres
Canada's largest dollar store faced a shareholder vote from the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU), earning backing from major investors
BURNABY – Today, shareholders at Dollarama voted 18% in favour of a shareholder proposal asking the company to do more to protect workers in the company's global supply chain, which includes over 1,000 workers in Quebec-based warehouse and distribution centres. The B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU), a long-term Dollarama investor, filed the proposal.
"It's simple: by failing to include freedom of association in its Vendor Code of Conduct, Dollarama is failing workers and shareholders alike. Today, investors sent a strong message that they want Dollarama to do more to protect workers, and they're not buying Dollarama's claims that that it does not need to address freedom of association and collective bargaining in its code of conduct," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.
In response to the proposal, Dollarama said that since the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (Québec) protect certain personal freedoms, Dollarama did not need to address these rights in its Vendor Code of Conduct. The Canadian Charter does not apply to private persons – it applies to government action/legislation only.
Belying their claim that Charter protections are sufficient, Dollarama's Vendor Code of Conduct already includes provisions covered by the Québec Charter, including those against forced labour, underage labour and discrimination. Dollarama's own peers including Metro Inc. have chosen to include freedom of association and collective bargaining in their vendor/supplier codes, making Dollarama's decision to exclude such matters even more questionable.
In its 2021 ESG Report, Dollarama outlines the importance of vendor audits which are guided by the Vendor Code of Conduct. By deciding not to include the terms proposed by the BCGEU, Dollarama has ensured that it will never audit suppliers regarding their actions relating to freedom of association or collective bargaining.
Dollarama uses an "arms-length" operating style in Quebec, outsourcing the entirety of warehouse and distribution centre work to six staffing agencies that compete for contracts. In 2021, allegations of dangerous and unhealthy working conditions at Dollarama's Quebec warehouse led to the BCGEU filing a shareholder proposal asking the company to investigate and report on potential human rights abuses that third-party staffing agencies enable. That year, 20% of shareholders supported the proposal.
Going against standard practice in Canada, Dollarama has refused to discuss the proposal with the BCGEU. "As a long-term shareholder, we are disappointed at Dollarama's refusal to discuss this important issue. We hope that today's vote will push the company to do more to protect all workers in their supply chain," said Smith.
The BCGEU launched a responsible investment program in 2018 to leverage its power as an investor to not only to protect and grow its members' assets but also to push portfolio companies to take progressive action on issues that matter to working people including on climate, enhanced corporate governance, human rights, and labour protections.
View the BCGEU's investor letter here.
The company's response to the proposal can be found in its management circular on page B-1.
About BCGEU: BCGEU is one of the largest unions in British Columbia, with over 85,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province. Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals at some of Canada's largest companies on topics like human rights, racial equity, and executive compensation. The union's strategy has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on ESG issues.
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