Sobeys announces 10 store closures on eve of negotiations: Union won’t be bullied

Sobeys announced this morning that the company has earmarked 10 Safeway stores in British Columbia for permanent closure. Sobeys indicated that if it gets favourable terms and conditions for its FreshCo discount banner, it may open FreshCo stores at five of the closed Safeway locations. This comes on the eve of bargaining between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys for all of its Safeway stores in British Columbia.

“This is an insult and an outrage,” said Ivan Limpright, president of UFCW 1518, which represents about 4500 Safeway employees. “First, Sobeys squandered Safeway’s market share and sullied a well-loved BC brand. Now they want to make our members pay for their mistakes? This isn’t about business: it’s about people’s lives.”

President Limpright said he only learned of the decision at the end of business yesterday. “Hundreds of our members will lose their jobs. Hundreds more will be displaced through the transfer process. And Sobeys barely gave us a courtesy call,” he said. “That won’t fly in bargaining, though. We told the company that we need all of the information on decisions they’ve made that will impact our members. It’s time to stop the games and start respectful negotiations.”

The timing of the announcement is suspicious, said President Limpright. “Last week, on the first day of bargaining with UFCW 832 in Manitoba, Sobeys demanded poverty concessions and then walked away from the table. Now as negotiations are set to begin in British Columbia, they announce 10 store closures? It’s a classic scare tactic. But our members won’t be fooled.”

Sobeys has decided to make 2018 the year of attacking its Western Canada employees. This is not simply a BC fight; it is a fight that Sobeys has decided to launch across the entire West. UFCW 1518 will be working with other UFCW locals and UFCW Canada to fight back against Sobeys’ attempt to bring in poverty wages instead of living wages. President Limpright put Sobeys on notice, saying the union will enforce the collective agreement, which includes strong closure language. “In the case of permanent store closure, our members have rights. Sobeys has demonstrated they have little respect for the collective agreement but we’ll be there, contract in hand, every step of the way.”

The Safeway locations slated for closure are: Lougheed Mall, City Square, Sunwood Square, Point Grey, Royal Oak, Blundel, Broadmoor, Newton Town Centre, Strawberry Hills and Mission.

Bargaining committee gets to work; Sobeys cancels first meeting

The union bargaining committee met this week to review members’ proposals for the reopener of the collective agreement with Sobeys, which owns Safeway where more than 4500 UFCW 1518 members work. The committee is composed of nine Safeway members from different regions, job categories, wage grids, and seniority levels, as well as two staff negotiators and President Ivan Limpright.

“Thousands of members submitted their ideas, solutions and proposals during our #Membersfirst bargaining outreach campaign last fall,” said Shari Jensen, who along with Dave Archibald is supporting the committee as staff negotiator.

“We spent the week reading and assessing all of the submissions. Now we’re in the process of refining and writing the proposals that we will present to Sobeys,” Jensen explained. “We have a super sharp team and we’re excited to get to the table. Even though our members didn’t create the many problems that Safeway is facing, they know how to fix them.”

President Limpright said he was disappointed that Sobeys cancelled a meeting scheduled for yesterday to discuss process and dates. “I wrote the company today suggesting further dates. I’m hopeful we can move forward sooner rather than later because that’s what our members expect and that’s what they deserve.” He added, “We can only hope that Sobeys comes to the table willing to listen and learn, because it’s clear from the dramatic decline of Safeway that they don’t understand the grocery business in Western Canada.”

Read President Limpright’s letter to Dave Fearon, Senior VP, Labour & Employee Relations, Sobeys here.

Sobeys picks fight with Western Canada workers: UFCW locals stand in solidarity

Yesterday, on the first day of contract talks, Sobeys picked a fight with UFCW 832, tabling a proposal seeking massive concessions that would take money out of the pockets of grocery workers, some of whom are already struggling to make ends meet. Then the company walked away from the table, cancelling the rest of the week’s bargaining dates.

Based in Manitoba, UFCW 832 represents 19,000 members working in retail, food processing, health care, security, the garment industry and transportation.

Since Sobeys purchased Safeway Canada four years ago, they have severely mismanaged the company, causing their market share to decline dramatically. Sobeys’ bungling included supply chain disruption, empty shelves, short staffing and long line ups, all of which have contributed to dissatisfied customers and lost sales.“Sobeys is owned by one of Canada’s richest families. Safeway was thriving until they came along. And now they want workers to pay for their mistakes? That’s unacceptable,” said UFCW 1518 President Ivan Limpright.

“If Sobeys was serious about rebuilding the company, this wouldn’t be their opening salvo,” President Limpright added. “They would come to the table ready to respectfully and meaningfully bargain. They wouldn’t take their mistakes out on their workers, some of whom barely make a living wage. It’s an insult.”

As UFCW 1518 prepares to enter into their own negotiations with Sobeys, President Limpright had this message for the company: “Bullying and scare tactics won’t work in Western Canada. We will come to the table prepared to bargain a collective agreement that ensures a living wage and quality of life for our members. If Sobeys was smart, they’d understand how these things benefit their bottom line, in the long and short term. British Columbians will have a hard time supporting a grocery store whose own employees can’t afford to buy groceries from.”

Read the statement from UFCW 832 here.

Read UFCW 274’s statement of solidarity here.

UFCW International Convention election results!

Members voted to send 21 delegates to the UFCW International Convention, including Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak, who will attend along with President Ivan Limpright. Just under 18,000 members were eligible to vote, and ballots were mailed out late last year, with the election concluding on Tuesday. There were 49 nominees from the membership – a record for the union.

“As a democratic, member-led union, it’s important that we practice democracy, not merely preach it. Elections such as this one, as well as high member engagement in the process, help us live up to our ideals,” said Kim Balmer, chair of the election committee.

Rank and file delegates, along with union leadership, will represent UFCW 1518’s interest at the international convention, the highest decision making body of the union. “It’s the ultimate level of power and democracy in our union. Our delegates will be their ensuring that 1518’s voice is heard,” Balmer added.

President Limpright extended his congratulations to the following successful candidates, who will attend the UFCW International Convention from April 23-27 in Las Vegas, Nevada:

Kathleen Adams, Catherine Boucher, Ashley Campbell, Toni Caruso, Michelle Fedosoff, James (Jimbo) Grant, David Gutierrez, Rhonda Hubbard, Tina Jameson, Danette Lankmayr, Pamela Leroy, Jamie Moffatt, Dayna Nicoll, Ken Pederson, Matt Rose, Eleanor Smith, Samantha Stewart, Troy Thibault, Jennifer Vecchio and Diana Zuniga.

Alternates: Alfred Norrish, Kamal Sudha, Linda Wilson

Brianna Bernardi

When Brianna Bernardi found out the daughter of her long-time work friend Patrick Haw had been diagnosed with cancer, she knew she had to do something to help. “My heart broke when I found out. Shortly after her diagnosis Pat went off work due to an injury so I knew we had to do something,” recounts Brianna. So in just three weeks, with the help of her coworkers at the Save-On-Foods in Abbotsford, she raised $11,166 for Patrick and his family.

Brianna’s story is an example of the power of coming together and supporting each other, which is what the union hopes to inspire in members. She credits the success of her fundraising initiative to being part of a caring and healthy workplace community. “It was a store effort,” says Brianna. “There’s a sense of community here, because we are all union members and we are all in it together.”

Brianna was also supported in her fundraising efforts by her union representative, Jake Kardosh. “Sometimes this was all a bit too much for one person but Jake was always by my side.” Feeling supported by our union was also what also motivated Brianna to stand up in the first place. “Being part of a union makes me feel like someone always has my back at work. I can always pick up the phone and call if I have questions or need help. So I wanted to provide that same support for Pat.”

At UFCW 1518 we believe that we are stronger together. If you know someone in a non-unionized workplace who would like to build a healthy workplace community and achieve big things together, encourage them to check out our Join Us page.

Minimum wage increase meets the bargaining table

UFCW 1518 members working at Kootenay Market in Elkford, BC ratified a collective agreement with a wage grid tied to the minimum wage – the first of its kind for the union. Since taking office last year, the BC NDP has raised the minimum wage once, with more increases expected this year.

About 22 UFCW 1518 members overwhelmingly voted in favour of a five year deal that saw the start rate jump sharply from $12 an hour to $13.60. More importantly, it included a minimum wage spread. “What it means is that when the minimum wage goes up – as the BC NDP has promised – so will wages. It’s an important achievement for our members,” said union representative Lorraine Ausman.

Instead of increases based on a fixed wage rate, Ausman explained, the various steps on the wage grid will be tied to the minimum wage: when the minimum wage increases, members’ wages will rise accordingly. “So for example, if the minimum wage goes up by a dollar, our members’ wages will increase by one dollar,” she said. What’s innovative about the concept of a minimum wage spread is that it distributes the benefits of a rising minimum wage across the wage scale, allowing the collective agreement to be responsive to legislative changes while providing the security of a union contract.

“We finally have a progressive government that understands the reality that working people need to make a decent living in order to foster a productive economy,” commented President Ivan Limpright. As the labour representative on the Fair Wages Commission, President Limpright advises the government on how to move towards a $15 an hour minimum wage as well as how to close the gap between the minimum wage and a living wage. “The minimum wage is going up, there’s no doubt. So it’s good to see an employer being proactive,” said President Limpright. “It will enable them to remain competitive in attracting and retaining experienced workers, which will in turn increase their productivity and bottom line. That’s good for business and good for our members.”

The success of the Fight for $15 campaign is a victory for the labour movement and an example of why it’s important for unions to engage in political action, President Limpright added. “Because of our activism and education, we are on the path toward a $15 an hour minimum wage for our province’s most vulnerable workers. We’ll take that victory to the bargaining table in order to win wage improvements for all workers – as we’ve just seen with Kootenay market.”

Staying safe in the workplace: New OH&S course for community health

After centuries of advocacy and activism, workers have strong rights that allow them to remain healthy and safe in the workplace. But not everyone knows their rights, and many workers unknowingly perform dangerous or unsafe work.

This is particularly true of community health workers whose job site is the client’s private home. “Our care aides and community health workers face innumerable hazards in the home that their colleagues working in hospitals and facilities don’t,” explained union representative Fred Scott. “Vicious pets, verbal abuse, physical assault and sexual harassment – the home can be a dangerous work environment.”

But while community health workers have an overall injury rate that is double the provincial average, many don’t know their rights when it comes to health and safety on the job. “Our community health and social services members are particularly vulnerable to occupational health and safety incidents, especially with no witnesses and no onsite support from management. But they don’t always know how to stay safe.”

That’s why UFCW 1518 developed a one-day course designed specifically for health care members working in the community. Launched last November on Vancouver Island, Health and Safety Essentials reflects recent changes to British Columbia’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. “This course focuses on giving members resources to be strong advocates of health and safety,” commented Scott, also one of UFCW 1518’s health and safety educators. “We want workers to be more aware of their rights, the history of these rights and how to enforce them. Specifically, we teach workers about their right to know, their right to participate, their right to refuse unsafe work and their right to know discrimination,” he added.

“The overall consensus was that this class was a hit,” said union representative Ashley Campbell. “It was basic enough in that it wasn’t overwhelming and yet it was clear and factual so that members left understanding what their rights and roles are when performing their jobs, and when advocating for other members.”

Health and Safety Essentials was more than just informative for home support worker Brenda Somerville. “Union courses give you a different perspective than going to your employer’s health and safety presentations,” she said. “It was a good opportunity to exchange ideas and share information with other home support workers. And it was also empowering.”

Health and Safety Essentials is open to stewards as well as Joint Occupational Health & Safety representatives. Keep your eye on the Events Calendar for 2018 course dates.