More than 50 UFCW 1518 members working at Rogers Foods in Armstrong, BC ratified a new collective agreement last week featuring the highest monetary package ever bargained by the union. Rogers Foods has been milling natural flour and cereal products from Canadian grains for over 60 years.
Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the agreement, which includes a 12.75 percent wage hike over five years, retroactive to February 1, 2019. Other highlights include increases to shift premiums, improved bereavement leave, higher protective footwear allowance and a floater day for members with 25+ years of service. Additionally, members will now become eligible for the UFCW 1518 Pension Plan more quickly.
“This agreement demonstrates yet again the power of collective bargaining to improve the lives of working people,” said President Kim Novak. “When we achieve robust contracts like this one, with so many gains for workers, we drive up standards and expectations in the industry. Unions continue to set the high bar of good working conditions and fair compensation.”
A big thank you to the bargaining committee, made up of Will Schroepfler and Glenn Lutes, assisted by union representative Shari Jensen.
“It’s a smart move, and a long time coming.” That’s what UFCW 1518 member Sartaj Birring had to say about Sobeys announcement that it will no longer offer plastic grocery bags across all banners. Starting in January, 2020 Sobeys, parent company of Safeway, will cease distributing plastic bags to customers in its 225 locations in an effort to be more environmentally sustainable.
“There’s a shift in how customers are approaching their shopping. There are a lot more people who are refusing plastic bags and using resuable bags,” said Birring, a cashier at the Safeway in New Westminster. “This is something that customers want so the company making that shift is really positive,”
Amit Mohindroo, a UFCW 1518 member who works at the Safeway on Robson St. in downtown Vancouver, agreed: “Plastic bags cost money and they harm the environment.” He said that increasingly, customers are more environmentally conscious about their shopping habits. “I’d say about 75 percent of the customers at my store bring reusable bags. Sometimes they just carry their groceries in their hands! Or if they forget their reusable bags, they will buy new ones.” He adds: “As cashier, I always ask my customers if they want plastic bags. People usually say no. They don’t like plastic.”
Both Birring and Mohindroo said they are happy to work for an employer who shares their values regarding environmental protection and sustainability. “We all have a responsibility to take care of our earth,” Birring said. “I’m mindful of the kind of stuff I buy and the waste that I put in my garbage. I look at the packaging, and if they’re double wrapped in plastic, I don’t buy them.”
President Kim Novak welcomed the decision by Sobeys to phase out plastic grocery bags. “It is an environmentally sound move and wise, given the push by cities and provinces to ban single use plastics.”
According to Sobeys, discontinuing the distribution of plastic bags from all its locations will eventually remove more than 800 million bags from circulation. The company said paper bags will be made available, and that this decision will not increase the cost of groceries.
UFCW 1518 members working at Aspen Gas Centre in Comox ratified a new collective agreement in June, with the majority voting to accept the deal. Importantly, the union bargaining committee negotiated a minimum wage spread to address retention problems and to account for scheduled minimum wage increases scheduled annually for the next three years.
Members with 4160-6239 hours will earn 10 cents above the minimum wage during each year of the agreement. Those with more than 6240 hours will earn 40 cents above minimum wage in 2019, 30 cents in 2020 and 45 cents in 2021. Members in the Supervisor Classification will receive a two percent wage hike for each year and those in the Customer Service Representative classification will receive a signing bonus.
President Kim Novak said the agreement shows how important it to have unions to press for higher wages in the face of annual minimum wage increases. “The labour movement has been successful in lobbying the government to increase the minimum wage. We then build upon those increases at the bargaining table, to continually push companies and co-operatives toward becoming living wage employers.
Other highlights of the contract include improve funeral leave provisions and the addition of Joint Labour Management meetings. Shop stewards will receive 15 minutes of paid time to orient new staff to the union.
President Novak thanked the bargaining committee, made up of member Lynn Smith and Reg Lewis, assisted by union representative Ashley Campbell.
UFCW 1518 has successfully pushed Sobeys to agree to offer additional voluntary severances to Grid A members in the stores that will continue to operate as Safeway in Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon. This agreement comes as a result of discussions between the union and company under Section 54 of the BC Labour Relations Code.
Last month, Sobeys announced that six more Safeway stores would be closing and converting to FreshCo in Powell River, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon. “We knew that the closure of Safeway stores in smaller communities would cause difficulties for our members, as there would be limited options available for them to transfer to another Safeway store without having to move out of their communities,” said President Kim Novak. “The union worked diligently for more severance offers to be made in the two-store communities in order to create additional spaces for members to transfer into.”
President Novak pointed out that the voluntary severance will be calculated the same as the offers made to Grid A employees in the closure stores that have been announced as FreshCo conversions and will NOT result in any bought hours. She also said that there are a limited number of severances available so it is possible that not every applicant will be successful. “We worked effectively with our sibling local UFCW 247, through this process and I am happy to report their members in these stores will also be receiving severance offers.”
Eligible Grid A members in the stores in Kelowna, Kamloops and Vernon will receive notice by letter from Sobeys of their specific offer today. Added President Novak, “We are still working to reach agreement on mitigating the impact of store closures on members who work in single-store communities – Powell River, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake – and will be following up with members as soon as we have more updates.”