Teamsters to UFCW 1518: Thanks for the solidarity!

The Teamsters had words of thanks for UFCW 1518 members at the conclusion of the dispute with their employer, Coca Cola. “Teamsters Local Union No. 213 would like to thank all those who supported its members through this period” wrote Secretary-Treasurer Walter Canta.

About 370 Teamsters working in production, warehousing, trucking and merchandising at Coke facilities in the Lower Mainland had been on strike since July 24, fighting for a fair contract. When they reached out to the broader labour movement for support, UFCW 1518 was there. “We agreed to honour any flying pickets that Teamsters might put up at our Save On Foods and Safeway stores across the Lower Mainland,” explains Director Kim Balmer. “We have strong and tested language in our collective agreements that affirms our members’ right not to work behind a legal picket line.”

The BC Labour Relations Board had previously held that Teamsters 213 can lawfully picket during a delivery of Coca Cola’s product at a retail grocery store. UFCW 1518 reminded members of their own legal right to support such a picket and provided instructions for an orderly shutdown of a store should a Teamster picket go up.

Part of picket line language includes a prohibition on discipline or discrimination by the employer against an employee who refuses to report to work while a legal picket line exists at their place of work. “We made sure our members understood their right to respect a picket line guaranteed under the collective agreement and let them know that we would fight any discipline imposed on them,” Balmer added. After three weeks on strike, Teamsters 213 reached a mediated settlement that protected their hard earned benefits.

Only unionized Buckerfield’s becomes Living Wage employer

Members working in Buckerfield’s in Duncan, BC ratified a new collective agreement that contains a living wage scale – the first of its kind for UFCW 1518.

A living wage is a regional calculation that assesses the amount of money a family of four needs to earn to meet their expenses. The living wage includes costs like rent and groceries as well as items like extended health care and two weeks’ savings for each adult. “It’s extraordinary for an employer to research the living wage for their community and voluntarily rename the wage scale in the collective agreement as the “living wage schedule,” says director Kim Balmer. “But that’s what this employer did.”

Founded by Ernest Buckerfield in 1919, Buckerfield’s earned a reputation for quality in the home and garden, animal feed, and farm markets. There are about a dozen independently owned stores under the Buckerfield’s banner across the province. The Duncan location is the only unionized store.

Under the two-year deal, the lowest full-time hourly rate of pay jumps from $12.50 to $15.12, for newly hired employees. According to Fight for 15 BC, a campaign led by the BC Federation of Labour to raise the minimum wage, paying $15 an hour would pull workers above the poverty line on all the standard measures of poverty. It would “put BC workers 10 percent above the Low Income Cut-Off and give them a fair chance to pay for the most basic necessities.” [source]

The bargaining committee, consisting of Rhonda Shrieber, union representative Kerry Brewster and Balmer, recommended ratification and members voted overwhelmingly in favour. “In addition to a living wage scale, there are comprehensive health and welfare benefits and the well funded UFCW pension plan,” Balmer comments. “For a small employer, it’s unquestionably a good contract.”

New contract makes Sunrise workers highest paid in industry

About 450 UFCW 1518 members working for Sunrise Poultry ratified a new collective agreement with substantial gains, making it the strongest contract in British Columbia’s poultry industry. “Without question, these members are now the highest paid poultry workers in BC – if not North America,” comments director Kim Balmer.

Sunrise is a processor and distributor of fresh chicken, meat and non-meat products. Founded in Surrey in 1983, the company has grown to 1300 employees and six processing plants located in BC, Alberta and Ontario. “We represent three plants here in British Columbia,” notes Balmer. “They’re a living wage employer that seems to understand the connection between a fair collective agreement, a productive facility and, ultimately, profit.”

On July 16, members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the four year deal. The bargaining committee, consisting of members Ray Sereduik, Charles Loro, Jesse McCormick and chief shop steward Kevin Sparkes, and assisted by union representative Tony Evangelista and director Kim Balmer, had unanimously recommended ratification. A major highlight was a wage hike of between eight and 12 percent, with pay retroactive to July 1, 2016. There were also increases to most health and welfare benefits as well as a $100 signing bonus.

Says Balmer: “This set of negotiations was a win for everyone: our members receive fair compensation for work performed and the employer gets a productive workplace. A fair trade I’d say.”