In a ruling published yesterday, Arbitrator Chris Sullivan sided with UFCW 1518 in removing Save-On-Foods 2219 (former IGA – Main St.) from quarterly review and restoring the full terms of the collective agreement.
The decision includes the return to full- and part-time rates of pay for Grid A employees, the restoration of accumulated time off (ATO), 2017 and 2018 wage increases, the removal of vendor stocking as well as the removal of weekly maximization to the 15 percent of the bottom of the schedule. Additionally, all job posting and key personnel provisions have been returned to the full terms of the agreement.
“This is a major win for our members,” said Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “They helped the store get back on track financially, went through the difficulty of quarterly review and now they’ve been returned to the full terms of the collective agreement, including the return of ATO, wage increases and all other terms.”
Overwaitea Food Group bought the struggling IGA in April 2016 and invoked the quarterly review language in order to improve the store’s financial viability. Quarterly review is a process under the collective agreement that allows the employer to ask for temporary concessions in order to prevent store closures. In February 2017, the Quarterly Review Committee, which consists of members elected from the store, agreed to accept temporary concessions. Importantly, the agreement contained a wage increase, which members at that store hadn’t seen in five years. But it also froze wages and suspended ATO entitlements until the store reached the target of improved financial performance. This followed months of discussion and an examination of the financial records disclosed by the employer.
“The quarterly review process is often a long one – it takes time to turn a store around. But our members persevered and our committee never stopped fighting. We’re going to continue to fight for all of our members at stores that remain on quarterly review,” Novak added. “I want to thank the leadership of union representative Fred Scott, as well as the hard work of the Quarterly Review Committee, including members Tom Szabo, Melissa Fierro, and Tammy Robinson throughout this process.”
Twenty one delegates from UFCW 1518 join President Ivan Limpright at UFCW’s 8th International Convention this week in Las Vegas. Held every five years, the International Convention is the highest decision making body of the union, which consists of more than 1000 UFCW locals from across North America.
“As a union that values democracy, it is essential that we come together to discuss the issues facing our members and vote on the resolutions that will set the course for the next five years,” said President Limpright. “In this age of global corporate power, we can’t overestimate the value of solidarity across borders when it comes to protecting workers’ rights and the environment.”
More than 2,500 UFCW activists, including 350 members from the UFCW Canada caucus, joined together for the opening day today. “We have an important task before us,” President Limpright continued. “We will be laying out the future for this continent’s most progressive union, guided by the ideals of unity, family, community, and worth.”
Resolutions before convention touch on a variety of issues, including those that make up the union’s social justice mandate, such as fighting against domestic violence, advocating for immigrant workers’ rights and promoting worker self-determination. Rank and file delegates elected from the UFCW 1518’s membership along with the leadership will represent the local’s interests and ensure the members’ collective voice is heard.
Each day of the conference is dedicated to one of the four main ideals. Unity, the theme of the first day, stems from the conviction that no one should have to struggle alone. “As a local we are 22,000 members strong,” President Limpright added. “But when 1.3 million members of UFCW stand together, we have the power to create a better, more just work place. Anything is possible.”
UFCW 1518 and Overwaitea Food Group returned to the bargaining table on Monday and Tuesday this to continue negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement. Talks broke off April 6 after 40 days of bargaining had failed to advance discussions to monetary items.
This week, talks focused on non-monetary issues, including scheduling. “Our members were very clear during the union’s bargaining outreach last fall,” said President Ivan Limpright. “They told us their top priorities for scheduling were maintaining pre-1997 scheduling rights, consecutive days off work for all employees, and fair rotation of evening shifts among post-1997 employees to name a few. Another key priority is fewer silo departments with all employees on one schedule in cross-classification.”
Limpright added: “Members also told us that more flexibility to reduce the high number of schedule changes after the schedule is posted is important to them.”
The union bargaining committee expects a response on scheduling from the employer when negotiations resume. No further bargaining dates have been confirmed as of today. “In the meantime, the bargaining committee will continue to work. They met yesterday and today and will meet again on Wednesday to prioritize the outstanding non-monetary and monetary proposals.”
As part of its commitment to improve fairness for workers, the NDP is conducting a review of the BC Labour Relations Code. The Labour Relations Code is the main legislation governing employment standards in the province’s unionized workplaces and guarantees that right of every employee to join a union.
A review panel consisting of a labour representative, an employer representative and a chair person is holding public consultations and reviewing the Code to ensure BC’s unionized workplaces support fair laws for workers and businesses, and are consistent with the labour rights and protections enjoyed by other Canadians. This is the first review of the code since 2003.
“The current legislation is creating significant challenges for workers wanting to form unions, especially in sectors with high levels of turnover and seasonal workers,” UFCW 1518 organizer Keith Murdoch told the three-person panel.
Murdoch described a recent organizing campaign in Whistler-Blackcomb where the employer had an unfair advantage as it had sole access to the employee list. Equal access to the employee list is essential “to provide workers with the building blocks to form their union while ensuring that all workers have a fair opportunity to make an informed choice about joining the union or not.”
In addition to access to the employee list, UFCW 1518 made other recommendations to ensure the Code meets the need for meaningful access to collective bargaining, including a return to card-based certification, reducing the maximum time for a vote, and restoring the prohibition to anti-union campaigning. “Mandatory vote systems are a demonstrated invitation to improper and unlawful employer conduct that prevents the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association by employees,” the union stated in its written submission.
In an effort to eliminate anti-union pressure from the employer, UFCW 1518 also recommended reinstating the prohibition against this. That would “address employer interference during certification campaigns and assist in leveling the inherent employer-employee power imbalance” in the workplace, which has been recognized as “an improper barrier to access to collective bargaining.”
Added Murdoch: “The employer has a lot of power over their employees. They shouldn’t be allowed to use their resources and influence to steer workers to a decision that they prefer.”
Public consultations on the Labour Relations Code continue across the province until April 24. You can read UFCW 1518’s submission here.
After a week of touring Save-On-Foods stores and talking with members, the UFCW 1518’s negotiating committee is set to return to the bargaining table on Monday.
Negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement were suspended after parent company Overwaitea Food Group failed to meaningfully respond to the union’s proposals.
“After 40 days of negotiations, things had not moved even close to where they should be by this point in the process,” said President Ivan Limpright. “Both sides had committed to interest-based bargaining, but in order for that to work there has to be meaningful discussion and movement on the issues and that just was not happening.”
President Limpright added: “I do believe Overwaitea wants to get an agreement. Now it’s time to show us they’re serious about it.”
UFCW 1518 will begin bargaining with the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC) in order to conclude a new collective agreement with members in community health.
The Community Bargaining Association is the bargaining agent for 16,000 community health workers across British Columbia. UFCW 1518 bargains collectively as part of that association, along with BCGEU, HEU, UFCW 1518, CUPE, HSA and USWA.
The existing contract between UFCW 1518 and HEABC expires on March 31, 2019.
“Starting bargaining well in advance of the expiration of the collective agreement is good for our members,” said President Ivan Limpright. “It gives us enough time to properly address the long-standing issues our members have been experiencing since negotiating the last contract.”
The union has been preparing for negotiations since late last year to identify members’ priorities through the bargaining proposal process. There will also be a conference, held May 6-9 at the Guilford Sheraton in Surrey, to discuss bargaining and review proposals.
Bargaining will commence on May 14, 2018.
The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) has agreed to begin negotiations with the Community Social Services Employers’ Association of BC (CSSEA) aimed at concluding renewal collective agreements with members in Community Social Services.
The existing contracts between the CSSEA and CSSBA expire on March 31, 2019.
“I’m pleased to be getting to the bargaining table early,” said President Ivan Limpright. “It’s no secret that the Community Social Services sector has been in crisis for over a decade. With this round of bargaining, we look forward to improving the working conditions and lives of our members – caring professionals who provide support to some of the most vulnerable British Columbians.”
UFCW 1518 has been preparing for a return to the bargaining table since late last year, gathering members’ proposals and planning a bargaining conference, which will take place May 6-9 at the Guilford Sheraton in Surrey, BC.
UFCW 1518 belongs to the CSSBA along with nine other unions, including BCGEU, CUPE, HEU, HSA, USW, CSWU, BCNU, and SEIU. Community Social Services consist of three collective agreements, which are Community Living Services, General Services and Aboriginal Services.
Bargaining will commence on May 15, 2018.
Vince Ready, special officer in the dispute between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys, has ordered the company to keep nine Safeway stores open until July 5. Sobeys had slated the stores for closure on May 5.
The order came after Labour Minister Harry Bains appointed Ready as special officer. President Ivan Limpright asked the government to intervene when negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement stalled last month. According to Section 106 of the BC Labour Code, in the interest of “industrial peace” the Minister may appoint a special officer during the term of a collective agreement if there is a dispute arising out of the agreement.
“This direction by Mr. Ready is good news,” said President Ivan Limpright. “It ensures that our members will continue to work at the stores for at least two more months. That’s two more months of income. Two more months to plan their lives.”
UFCW 1518 and Sobeys agreed to adjourn an illegal lockout complaint filed by the union with Labour Relations Board of BC to enable Ready to mediate the dispute. The union filed the complaint in January after Sobeys announced it would close 10 Safeway locations just before negotiations were set to begin. UFCW1518 subsequently filed a number of grievances related to the planned stores closures with the LRB.
Mr. Ready will serve as a mediator in an effort to resolve the various disputes arising out of the store closures. If the parties do not reach a voluntary agreement, any disputes that had been before the Labour Relations Board will go back to the LRB to be decided.
“The opportunity to mediate does not hurt our legal position in any way if the illegal lockout complaint or any of the other matters go back to the Board,” President Limpright added. “In fact, it gives us more of a chance to defend our members’ rights in the face of store closures. This is critical because it will allow our members to make informed, meaningful decisions about their future.”
President Limpright said he is expects Sobeys to engage in the mediation process in good faith and with a desire to resolve the illegal lockout complaint. “And if not, Mr. Ready will return the issue to the Labour Relations Board.”
UFCW 1518 will hold a conference for members working in the community health and social services sector May 6-9 at the Sheraton Guilford in Surrey, BC.
About 90 activists and stewards will attend the conference, which will take the pulse of our membership in terms of issues, challenges and future vision. Through panels and workshops, the conference will focus on building solidarity, providing learning opportunities and preparing for bargaining for those members under the HEABC and CSSEA collective agreements.
“I’m excited to be bringing all of our members who work in community health and social services together to discuss important issues they experience every day,” said Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “Our members face unique challenges, such as health and safety, and in particular violence on the job. We need to face those head on, and we need to face them together.”
Novak said that even though the union’s health care members may be working under different collective agreements, the opportunity to come together is “incredibly valuable”, especially with negotiations on the horizon. “Our members who work in health are passionate about what they do, and we’re looking forward to a conference focused on discussing the issues they’ve told us matter most to them, including much needed wage, benefit, scheduling and workplace improvements,” says Novak. “We are each other’s greatest allies, and by standing together in solidarity, we can fight unfairness in the workplace.”
The conference will feature a Labour Women in Leadership panel as well as sessions on the history of collective bargaining in the health care sector and how to organize and engage community health members. For members under the HEABC and CSSEA agreements, there will be sessions to review bargaining proposals and structure.
The Pulse, a daily e-newsletter published during the conference, will be emailed to all community health and social services members. Those wishing to receive the e-newsletter should ensure the union has their correct contact information. Please contact Member Records at 604.526.1518 to ensure your email address is updated and active!