UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway have had a tough year. In January, parent company Sobeys announced 10 store closures. The following month, Sobeys tabled a concessions-only set of proposals at the start of negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement, which is five years into a 10-year deal.
But thanks to the hard work of union representatives, Sobeys had to pay out more than $90,000 in fines and settlements to members. “We have a collective agreement and we’ve been using it to ensure our members’ rights and interests are protected,” said Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “In addition to the monetary wins, we won on compliance issues, meaning that Sobeys has to follow the collective agreement in areas where they’ve been ignoring it.”
Even as negotiations for the reopener stalled, the union filed grievance after grievance and worked hard to ensure members at closure stores were treated with respect, and that those who were eligible were offered severance or transfers. In May, President Limpright appealed to the Ministry of Labour to intervene after Sobeys failed to engage in meaningful negotiations. Referring to Section 106 of the BC Labour Relations Code, Minister Harry Bains appointed a Special Officer with the power to mediate, arbitrate and make binding orders. Unfortunately, Sobeys refused to move off their concessionary demands and the 106 proceedings continued through the summer and into the fall.
“We have no control over Sobeys’ actions or behaviour,” said Secretary-Treasurer Novak. “While Sobeys was playing games and demanding deep concessions from our members to fix problems they created, we were doing what we do best: defending our members’ rights.”
Over the past six months, UFCW 1518 filed grievances and negotiated agreements that put more than $90,000 back in members’ pockets and ensured company compliance with the terms of the collective agreement. Here is a brief summary of some of those wins:
- Filed a policy grievance to protect the work of pharmacy assistants, which was being done by pharmacists.
- Filed several grievances for failure to post full time positions, which the company subsequently posted. Part time employees were moved to full time and have begun receiving accumulated time off (ATO).
- Filed a group grievance regarding improper scheduling of ATO, specifically the failure of management to schedule ATO.
Pending compliance grievances
- Filed a policy grievance to address the numerous part time employees working full time hours, yet the company is not posting these full time positions in accordance with the collective agreement. This grievance has been referred to expedited arbitration and the union is fighting for more full time positions.
Grievances with monetary awards
- Filed a policy grievance to regarding violations of Key Personnel Stepdown as well as improper demotion.
- Filed a policy grievance for violation of DTA protocol, seniority and hours of work, provisions and job posting provisions.
- Actively enforcing the Clerks Work clause where salespersons have been caught doing bargaining unit work which has resulted in fines payable to the UFCW 1518 Pension Plan.
- Filed a grievance for failure to provide correct sick credits to employees.
“The company is on notice,” Secretary-Treasurer Novak said. “We aren’t tolerating violations of the collective agreement. Our members deserve better.”
UFCW 1518 has filed its proposals with Special Officer Vince Ready as the Section 106 proceedings continue. President Limpright appealed to the provincial government to intervene after negotiations between the union and Sobeys, parent company of Safeway, stalled last March. Minister of Labour Harry Bains invoked a little used section of the BC Labour Relations Code to appoint a Special Officer to assist in resolving the dispute. Under Section 106, the Special Officer has the power to mediate, arbitrate and issue binding orders.
The proposals were filed “without prejudice” due to the union’s legal position that the reopener provision in the Safeway collective agreement is not intended to be used as a vehicle to gut the agreement. Recommendations issued by the Special Officer in the summer contained deep concessions that troubled the union.
“We also don’t agree that the new banner language in the Safeway collective agreement applies to the conversion of existing stores. It is our position that Sobeys’ desire to introduce FreshCo into BC by opening in locations of former Safeway stores is a conversion, which means the new banner language doesn’t apply,” commented President Ivan Limpright. “It is essential, especially in the face of Sobeys’ attempts to roll back our hard won gains, that we defend every legal right we have.”
The union’s proposals are organized in three documents and contain commentary and justifications regarding the 2018 reopener, Safeway stores converting to FreshCo, Sobeys’ discount banner, and a collective agreement for FreshCo. President Limpright said he expects the union will supplement its proposals with the filing of additional legal submissions in the near future, after which point, Sobeys will be given an opportunity to respond.
“I know this has been a long and frustrating process. I’m grateful for the ongoing support and patience of our members as we work our hardest to protect their interests in these difficult times,” he added. “I will let members know as soon as I have more information and will continue to provide you with regular updates via email and our website.”
UFCW 1518 members working at Save-On-Foods will now be eligible for health benefits after working for six months, reducing the qualification period significantly.
“The wait time for benefits is now cut in half. It’s a major win for our members,” said Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “It acknowledges the reality that workers need benefits in order to be healthy and live well. Every employer should want that for their employees.”
The union negotiated the six-month reduction in benefits qualification at the bargaining table earlier this year, but it was subject to approval by the Health and Welfare Trust. At a meeting earlier this week, the trustees approved the change, which will be effective November 1 and include MSP, extended health benefits and dental coverage.
As of November 1 any member who has worked with Save-On-Foods for six months and averages 24 hours per week over 13 consecutive weeks will be eligible for the Employee Benefit Plan. Members are reminded to contact their shop steward if they have any questions about filling out the benefit plan forms that will be sent to their store.
The trustees also approved the Short Term Disability Plan for non-Grid A members, also negotiated during bargaining for the 2018 reopener. The Benefits Committee will meet later this month to finalize eligibility requirements, coverage and implementation.
Secretary-Treasurer Novak added that she expects to have more information by the end of October and for the plan to be effective as soon as the details have been finalized.