President Limpright announces bargaining committees

President Ivan Limpright announced the major retail foods bargaining committees today, several months in advance of the reopening of the collective agreements with Sobeys and Overwaitea. The committees are composed of elected members of UFCW 1518’s Executive Board, as well as members elected by delegates to the #MembersFirst bargaining conference held in November. President Limpright also appointed select members in an effort to achieve balance in region, seniority, gender, pay scale and classification.

Members on the Sobeys (Safeway) committee include Kamal Sudha, Erin Moore, Stefan Nielsen, Matt Rose, Bob Milan, Danette Lankmayr, Brad Johnston, Peter Dombroskwi and Doug Evans. Members on the Overwaitea (Save On Foods)  committee include Laura Cipolato, Susan Bayly, David Gutierrez, Wes Schellenberg, Dave Diamond, James (Jimbo) Grant, Eric Munro, Graham Leblanc, Jaime Emerson, Brianna Rotta, Christine Holowka and Nisaka Vollert.

President Limpright will lead negotiations at each table, supported by legal counsel and various UFCW 1518 staff.  Union representatives Shari Jensen and Dave Archibald will assist him at the Sobeys table while director Donna Tremblay and union representative Fred Scott will join the Overwaitea table.

“The composition of the bargaining committees was very carefully considered,” explained President Limpright. “I selected the staff based on their experience as well as expertise, each of them having led many rounds of successful bargaining over the years. They will support the members on the committees, who have the very important task of negotiating changes to the collective agreements.”

President Limpright added: “We received almost 8000 submissions during our bargaining outreach campaign this fall. The bargaining committees have the critical job of assessing and refining those ideas, suggestions and solutions into proposals that they believe will make our members’ lives better.”

Book off letters were sent to the employer last week and the bargaining committees expect to convene in mid-January.


A message from the President: We will fight Sobeys

Like you, yesterday I woke up to learn of the bombshell news dropped by Sobeys. With no advance notice to the union, Sobeys announced that it would begin an aggressive introduction of its Eastern Canadian FreshCo banner into Western Canada. Sobeys suggested that it would be converting many of its Safeway stores to the FreshCo banner. Those stores would be operated as franchisees. It also stated that it would be permanently closing a few stores. Sobeys did not disclose what stores it plans to close or convert to FreshCo.

I am outraged that I had to learn about these significant developments yesterday morning while listening to Empire Company Ltd.’s (parent company of Sobeys) conference call on its quarterly financial results and not from Sobeys directly.

Sobeys has not provided me with any additional information than it provided to you, our members, and the public, yesterday.

After Michael Medline, Sobeys President and CEO, publicly stated a few months ago that he was considering expanding FreshCo, the union wrote seeking information from the company to find out what it was planning and how it might impact our members. Unfortunately, Sobeys refused to provide the union any information. Instead, it said it would not provide any information to us until Sobeys’ negotiations commenced.

Now we know why they were trying to hide the information:

  • Sobeys wants to undermine the existing Safeway collective agreement.
  • Sobeys wants to bring in an inferior collective agreement at FreshCo.
  • Sobeys intends to operate stores as franchises and intends to close stores.

We have demanded an immediate meeting with Medline so we can learn about Sobeys’ plans. We are frustrated at how the company treated everyone in handling this announcement and need to reset the relationship in a more positive, collaborative direction.

We are also considering the legal options. We will let you know when we take action. Certainly, we will challenge any attempt by Sobeys to have something other than the standard Safeway collective agreement apply at any FreshCo stores it may open here. Fortunately, the Safeway Extra new banner decision will not provide help to Sobeys if it tries to impose an inferior agreement at converted Safeway stores.

We believe that working together with our members, we will be able to successfully oppose Sobeys’ plans. Over the next while we will be asking all our members, not just those working at Safeway, to help us protect the jobs and working conditions at Safeway.

This fight impacts everyone. Know this, we will not stop fighting for your rights.

In solidarity,

Ivan Limpright

President, UFCW 1518

Sobeys goes to Labour Board instead of working with members

Flying in the face of UFCW 1518’s extensive efforts to prepare for the reopening of the collective agreement, including conducting its biggest ever bargaining outreach campaign, Sobeys has claimed that UFCW 1518 is not negotiating in good faith.

Only two weeks after the #MembersFirst bargaining conference in late November, where about 200 members, stewards, and activists hammered out priorities for the upcoming negotiations, Sobeys filed a complaint against UFCW 1518 at the BC Labour Relations Board.

The complaint takes issue with UFCW 1518’s commitment to consult with its members before meeting to negotiate changes to the collective agreement. Sobey also takes issue with the union ensuring that the negotiations happen in an open and transparent manner. The company falsely claimed that UFCW 1518 would disclose confidential financial information to its members.

Sobeys is also taking issue with the union’s request to see key information about Sobey’s finances and its planned changes to the business before sitting down to negotiate.  “It seems that Sobeys thinks we should go to the bargaining table unprepared on behalf of our nearly 5,000 members working at Safeway,” said President Ivan Limpright.

President Limpright was surprised and disappointed by Sobeys’ approach, which he said stands in the way of constructive negotiations. “We are working with our members and industry consultants to develop a recovery plan that will benefit our members and improve Sobeys’ business. Unfortunately, Sobeys does not seem to be interested in working with our members or us.”

UFCW 1518 filed its response to the complaint yesterday.


UFCW 1518 wins against Sobeys at the LRB – again

The BC Labour Relations Board has ruled that Sobeys must pay about $300,000 in vacation entitlements to more than 500 UFCW 1518 members, confirming the union’s interpretation of the collective agreement was correct.

Previously, Grid B employees working at Safeway received vacation pay according to the Employment Standards Act. But in the last round of collective bargaining, the union negotiated superior language that substantially increased the vacation pay these members would receive in 2017*.

The union filed several grievances in late 2016 after Sobeys indicated that in 2017 Sobeys would pay the members according to the old language. “Sobeys’ action meant many of our members had to choose between taking time off without pay or forsaking their vacation time off. This meant they wouldn’t have time away from work to spend with family and friends, or attend to personal matters,” explained union representative Dave Archibald. “Delaying implementation of the collective agreement language either deprived our members of the very benefit of vacation entitlement or deprived them of compensation, causing financial hardship during the holiday season.”

Arbitrator Ken Saunders agreed that Sobeys must pay the wages owing to these members. Sobeys appealed the decision and recently applied for a stay, which would further delay the implementation of the award. “They’re dinging our members twice: once last year around the holidays, when they incorrectly paid out vacation. And again this year – just before the holidays – by seeking to delay paying our members the wages an arbitrator ruled they are owed,” Archibald said. “Quite frankly, it reflects very poorly on Sobeys.”

President Ivan Limpright praised members for speaking up when they saw an infraction of the collective agreement. “It’s important for our members to understand when their rights are being violated so we can work together to defend them,” he said. “Sobeys has got to learn that they need to respect and follow the contract. It’s not optional. And we’ll fight them every time they try to deny our members their rights and benefits guaranteed under the collective agreement.”


*Under employment standards, Grid B employees could work for Safeway for years and years and receive at most three weeks off with pay. With the new language, employees who worked more than eight years are entitled to four weeks off with pay and those who worked more than 13 years would receive five weeks off with pay. UFCW 1518 also negotiated continuous service language for Grid B members, allowing them to continue to accrue benefits, regardless of how many hours worked in a given year

Workers at Donald’s Fine Foods join UFCW family!

About 85 workers at Donald’s Fine Foods voted to join UFCW 1518 this week, severing their association with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).

CLAC is an anti-union organization that purports to be a union but undercuts industry-standard wages and working conditions that the labour movement has fought to improve. In British Columbia, CLAC has helped employers circumvent the Employment Standards Act by “negotiating collective agreement provisions that are below the minimum standards” of the law [source]. CLAC is a considered a “company union”, favouring “accommodationist organizing strategies that undermine workers and other unions” [source].

“CLAC had almost five years to do right by these workers – and they didn’t. Now we have the chance to provide them with the representation they deserve, and an organizing model that’s geared towards helping members enforce the collective agreement,” said lead organizer Abby Leung. Under CLAC, Leung explained, members were not allowed to file grievances and only one grievance was ever taken to arbitration.

Workers at Donald’s Fine Foods, a meat distribution and processing plant located on Mitchell Island, join their colleagues at sister companies Britco Pork, a boutique pork operation also organized by UFCW 1518, and Vantage Foods, represented by UFCW 247. “Becoming part of the UFCW family means these members have greater bargaining power,” Leung added. “They will be looking to the Britco collective agreement for improvements to their own contract in the next round of negotiations.”

President Ivan Limpright welcomed UFCW 1518’s newest members and promised the union’s full support. “When it comes to fighting for fairness, we don’t back down,” he said. “We always start with diplomacy but we’re not shy of conflict. Whatever it takes, we’re prepared to fight for the best interest of our members.”

‘Tis the season! 1500 members attend holiday party

About 1500 members attended this year’s Children’s Holiday Party, held at the historic Burnaby Village Museum. Attendees enjoyed a magic and juggling show, free seasonal treats and gifts for children. Burnaby Village itself was decked out in its holiday finest, with festive displays all around the open-air museum.

Now in its 22nd year, this annual tradition is hosted in collaboration with UFCW 247. It brings together members and their families for a night of entertainment and celebration. “My kids came here growing up and loved it. I now help organize it because I like to see the smiles on kids’ faces,” said union representative Darrell Causey. “It’s just magical.”

For Causey, this annual union holiday tradition is all about giving thanks. “It’s a chance for the union to engage with our members and their kids at a time of the year when we want to express our thanks. We want to thank our members for being as hard working as they are and for supporting the union,” he said.

“This is a great event. It’s now part of our family tradition,” commented Clint Walker, a member from Save-On-Foods who has been attending the holiday party with his daughters for five years. Walker appreciates the opportunity to mingle with other members and reconnect. “It brings everybody together. I have the opportunity to catch up with old friends while walking through the village.”

Jack Lambley, a retired member of over 40 years from Safeway, is thankful to the union for being included in this tradition. “It’s very much appreciated to still be invited to this event. Even though as retirees we are not working and dues paying members, it’s nice to see we haven’t been forgotten. Now I get to bring my great grandchildren!”

About 250 pounds of of non-perishable food items for the Surrey Food Bank were also collected during the event, thanks to the generous contributions of members. “Our members understand what the holidays are about: giving thanks and giving back,” said President Ivan Limpright. “As a union, we’ve always helped out the less fortunate in our communities, especially around the holidays.” That’s why UFCW 1518 also donated  2880 bottles of manzanillo olive oil, hand bottled by President Limpright and staff volunteers, and the same amount of peanut butter and canned salmon, to the BC Federation of Labour Christmas hamper project. “In the labour movement, we take care of our own – and anyone who needs our help!”

Sobeys violates contract and loses at arbitration – twice

UFCW 1518 has won two recent arbitrations against Sobeys, signaling that the company must follow the collective agreement.

Sobeys failed to respect the collective agreement when it improperly bumped members from the Safeway locations at Austin Road and Davie Street. These two stores are closed for redevelopment and Sobeys used an incorrect bumping method, leading to members with more seniority being dropped to part time status. Sobeys’ claimed that it should not have to place members from these stores into stores that it believes ought to be under the Quarterly Review process in the collective agreement.

The Quarterly Review process was introduced to allow the parties to look at the unique circumstances of a specific store. This process allows the union and the company to avoid store closures and save jobs. However, despite seeking to have 19 stores placed in the Quarterly Review process, Sobeys has decided it does not want to meet with UFCW 1518 and our members. Sobeys made this decision after the union requested the financial records for the 19 stores.

The union filed a grievance and advanced it to expedited arbitration, at which point Sobeys called union representative Dave Archibald to concede. “It was really disruptive to our members, both those who were bumped into the wrong stores, and those who were displaced and lost their full time status. Now Sobeys has to unscramble the omelette.” Archibald added that members who were reduced to part time status as a result of the improper bumping will be made whole by the arbitrator.

The second win came after UFCW 1518 filed another grievance when Sobeys failed to post full time positions. “When we were gathering the facts for the bumping grievance, we demanded the employer provide us with an accounting of available full time positions” explained Archibald. The union discovered that Sobeys hadn’t posted full time positions. “In some cases, the employer had posted the positions in individual stores but that violates the collective agreement. Full time positions must be posted to stores throughout the entire geographical area per Section 8.10 of the collective agreement, so that all members in that geographical area have the opportunity to apply.”

The arbitrator ruled that Sobeys must uphold the contract and post full time positions to all stores in the geographical area. “Sobeys continues to disrespect our members and their rights under the collective agreement. We stood up to them and fought back. And we won,” said executive assistant Patrick Johnson. “As we get closer to the reopening of the collective agreement, the employer needs to get clear on some basic labour law.”

#MembersFirst conference focuses on solutions

About 200 activists, stewards and members from Safeway and Save-On-Foods gathered at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster this month for the #MembersFirst bargaining conference. Indigenous ensemble M’Girl opened the event with an acapella percussive performance that acknowledged traditional Coast Salish territory and drew on their experiences as First Nations women on Turtle Island.

Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak welcomed members to UFCW 1518’s first bargaining conference in 10 years. She explained the decision to bring members from both major foods employers together: “This will enable us to build solidarity over shared issues, which will help us strategize more effectively.”

President Ivan Limpright thanked conference delegates for participating in the largest, most successful bargaining outreach campaign ever conducted by UFCW 1518. “You are the heart of our union and we rely on you to engage with the issues and build solidarity at your workplaces. Make no mistake: the reopening of our collective agreements is a team effort – and we can’t do it without you.” To date, the union has received almost 8000 bargaining ideas and submissions. Six major bargaining priorities emerged from this data: wages, benefits, scheduling, workplace improvements, opportunity and mobility, and health and safety.

These were the topics of employer-specific focus groups that enabled delegates to examine more fully the issues pertaining to their particular collective agreement. Each each focus group reported back on the recurring issues and problems identified and provided suggestions and solutions for addressing them during contract negotiations. Delegates then passed a motion to accept the focus group recommendations, which will be forwarded to the bargaining committees to be refined into proposals.

Job security and making improvements for all members were the top priority. This included such things as raising the start rate before the minimum wage goes up, faster progression up the wage scale, and overall wage increases for all employees. In terms of benefits, delegates agreed that faster qualification is critical, as are sick days for all employees and improved coverage. “It was very clear that wage and benefit improvements are critically important if both employers want to attract and retain employees,” President Limpright commented.

Delegates identified important priorities for other areas, including scheduling changes that value work-life balance for our members, improving workplace conditions, providing opportunity to move between stores,  enhancing stewards’ rights, and implementing meaningful fines and consequences for employers who don’t follow health and safety regulations, thus endangering members.

President Limpright introduced the elected executive board members who will sit on the bargaining committees for each employer. He also introduced the staff representatives who will help guide negotiations at the bargaining table. In a first for this bargaining conference, delegates elected two members to each committee. The winners for the Safeway election were Brad Johnston and Peter Dombrowski while Jim (Jimbo) Grant and Eric Munroe won for Save-On-Foods.

The #MembersFirst conference ended on a high note, with delegates calling for solidarity. “I’m very encouraged by the unity I’ve seen on display at this conference,” said President Limpright. “Despite differences in region, seniority, job category and employer, delegates came together to fight for the common cause of fairness for all. There was a real feeling of focus, drive, strength and determination to negotiate the best possible contract for our members.”