President Limpright returns to full duties

President Ivan Limpright announced in an email to members that he will return to full duties beginning this week. He had been on leave since last month in order to deal with a serious family matter.

“I am pleased and relieved to report that things have improved to the point where I can resume my full duties,” President Limpright wrote in the email. “I will be gradually returning to work over the next few weeks, in time to attend the Bargaining Conference with many of our Safeway and Save On Foods members in November.”

President Limpright thanked members who sent well wishes and kind words while he was away.  “Your words of support helped me through a very difficult time. They meant more than you know.” He also thanked Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak, who came back early from her maternity leave to lead UFCW 1518 in his absence. “Kim Novak’s sharp mind and her steady leadership enabled me to focus on helping my family, knowing that our union was in excellent hands.” President Limpright added that preparations for major foods bargaining, which reopens in 2018, are well in hand and that the union is solidly on track thanks to Novak’s leadership.

“I look forward to returning to my full duties as president of UFCW 1518 – as well as my other obligations.” In October, the provincial government appointed President Limpright to the newly formed Fair Wages Commission, which was set up to advise government on how to implement  the $15-an-hour minimum wage. President Limpright was selected from among all the labour leaders in BC to be the labour representative on the three-person commission.

The Fair Wages Commission will develop recommendations for how the minimum wage should be increased once $15-an-hour is achieved and review other wage rates, including for agricultural workers, liquor servers and live-in caregivers. It will work with economists, trade unions, the technology sector, small businesses, youth and others from all regions of the province to put forward a plan to bridge the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage in British Columbia. “I am proud to have been selected to represent working people on this very important project. Achieving a $15-an-hour minimum wage is a major accomplishment for working people, and will only increase rate of pay for unionized workers as they climb the wage grid. It means greater leverage for higher wages at the bargaining table. And that’s good news for our members.”

The commission is seeking feedback from the public, with the first phase of consultations taking place in November and December. Public input will inform the findings of the Commission’s first report, which will be delivered to Minister of Labour, Hon. Harry Bains, by the end of the year. Make your written submission here.

UFCW 1518 applauds LRB decision on bakers

Bakers organized by BCTGM 468 have won their bid for jurisdiction at Safeway Extra. The BC Labour Relations Board found in favour of the bakers’ union, ruling that parent company Sobeys had ignored its certification and breached their collective agreement.

According to BCTGM 468, Sobeys denied them representational rights at its Langley store, one of several Safeway stores the company has renovated and reopened under the Safeway Extra banner. The LRB ruled that because the nature of production work had not changed from Safeway stores, the bakers’ union would continue to have jurisdiction. The Board further denied Sobeys’ application to consolidate the bakers with UFCW 1518, on the grounds that it failed to demonstrate any industrial instability to warrant such a move.

“I am proud to stand in solidarity with the baker’s union,” says Kim Novak, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW 1518. “We are in full support of the decision, which is a win for BCTGM 468 as well as an opportunity for our members.”

BCTGM 468 does not have new banner language in their contract with Safeway. New banner language ensures that any stores opened by the company under a new banner will be unionized. The LRB’s ruling is significant because it means that members of BCTGM 468 working at Safeway Extra to will continue to be under the master Safeway collective agreement.

“This win by the bakers’ union provides an excellent opportunity to fight back against Sobeys’ ongoing efforts to degrade our members’ quality of life at work,” adds Novak. “We believe that Sobeys has underestimated our members’ solidarity and determination in returning all Safeway Extras to the full terms of the Safeway master agreement. This decision by the LRB continues the momentum towards that goal that started months ago when our members became energized with the Fight Back campaign. ”

With contract negotiations set to reopen in the coming months, Novak has committed that the issue of restoring the Safeway master agreement to all stores will be brought to the bargaining table.

#MembersFirst: Major foods bargaining outreach launched

UFCW 1518 launched its bargaining outreach campaign today with a new engagement platform that will enable more members than ever to participate in major foods bargaining. The contracts for more than 17,000 members working at Safeway and Save On Foods reopen in March 2018, midway through a 10 -year agreement.

Using text and email, the engagement platform offers a new way to connect with members and collect granular information about their workplace issues and concerns, as well as their solutions and ideas for improvements. “This is an innovative approach to gathering member input that will allow us to understand more deeply what our members want and need out of this next round of bargaining,” says Kim Novak, Secretary-Treasurer. “The re-opening of the collective agreements is a great opportunity to advance proposals that recognize the wealth of experience possessed by our members.”

Both the employer and the union have the option of serving notice to bargain within six months of the re-opener. “We very much look forward to negotiating substantial improvements to the wages and conditions of work for our members – when the time comes.” That time is not now, Novak explains, despite receiving notice to bargain from Sobeys. “It’s premature to begin negotiations. Before every round of major bargaining with our retail grocery employers we convene a conference for our members, where we formulate the union’s proposals.” After the bargaining conference, which takes place November 19-23 in New Westminster, the union bargaining committee will further refine those proposals. Only then, says Novak, will the union be ready to bargain.

“It’s crucial that we hear from members in order to benefit from their expertise and experience. There are big problems we need to fix. Safeway in particular has experienced a dramatic loss in the BC market share, deterioration in store facilities and appearance, reduction in available hours of work and sky high employee turnover. This is due in no small part to mismanagement by Sobeys,” comments Novak. “Coupled with the centralization of administration, which has ignored the particularities of the province and its regions, the outcome has been disastrous, especially for our members and their customers.”

According to Novak, the re-opening of the collective agreements is an important opportunity to explore ways of once again making Safeway/Sobeys among the province’s leading grocers. To do that, she says the union needs the complete financials from the company. “Given developments since the purchase of Safeway, it’s imperative that we have a full understanding of the economic situation facing Sobeys. Without this information, we won’t be in a position to finalize our proposals, commence bargaining and ultimately negotiate an agreement that works.”

If Sobeys responds in a timely way, says Novak, UFCW 1518 will likely be in a position to begin bargaining by mid-January 2018. As yet, Overwaitea has not served notice to bargain but once initiated, those negotiations will follow a similar timeline based on proposal collection, bargaining conference and financial disclosure.

For Kim Novak’s response to Sobeys’ notice to bargain click here.

Ivan Limpright named to Fair Wages Commission

As a union we are very excited about the recent announcement that our President, Ivan Limpright, has been selected to be the labour representative on the provincial government’s Fair Wages Commission.

This is an important new commission launched by the Minister of Labour, Harry Bains. It is the next step towards lifting British Columbia’s lowest paid workers towards a living wage. The commission will function at arm’s length from government and will create a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It will also address the discrepancy between the minimum wage and a living wage, which is what people need to earn to properly make ends meet.

As an influential labour leader, Ivan’s contribution to the commission will be to convey the concerns of working people. It is important that all of our members benefit from increases to the minimum wage. This is an exciting time, not only for working people, but for our members. There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together and we look forward to hearing from you about issues that matter most.