UFCW 1518 donated $5000 worth of grocery gift cards to Unite Here Local 40, whose members have been on strike for more almost three weeks. Widespread sexual harassment coupled with unlivable wages prompted 1200 workers at four major Vancouver hotels to walk off the job in September. As revenues at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Pinnacle Harbourfront, Hyatt Regency and Westin Bayshore have soared in the most profitable hospitality industry in Canada, hotel workers were left behind. Many are forced to hold two jobs or work excessive hours just to make ends meet.
President Kim Novak and Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson, along with all of the UFCW 1518 staff joined striking workers on the picket line at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel a few days after the strike began. President Novak spoke to the crowd and pledged her support. “Being on a picket line is tough. You’re fighting to build a better workplace and defend your rights against an employer who is battling you every step of the way,” she said. “Then there’s the added financial precarity of being on strike and the incredible stress that brings. We wanted to show our solidarity and help these workers enjoy Thanksgiving with their families.”
President Novak noted that the grocery gift cards are from unionized stores where UFCW 1518 members work, so it’s truly workers supporting workers. She continued: “It is absolutely unacceptable for an employer to stand by while workers are being sexually harassed and endangered at work. We stand with the labour community in calling for these hotels to protect their workers, who are truly the foundation of their successful businesses, and negotiate a fair agreement now.”
UFCW 1518 says the provincial government should mandate paid leave for workers experiencing domestic and sexual violence. The union joined the BC Federation of Labour in calling for changes to the Employment Standards Act to ensure all workers have the resources to leave a violent situation and the ability to pursue justice as well as needed supports and services without loss of pay.
“BC is one of the only provinces without this kind of paid leave protected under labour law,” explained President Kim Novak. “Women and people from other marginalized groups experience both domestic and sexual violence more than other workers. They also disproportionately experience barriers in accessing medical and legal systems where they could seek care and justice, which is why paid leave is so important.”
According to Statistics Canada, sexual assault is the only violent crime on the rise in Canada while intimate partner violence affects more women and working-aged Canadians. In Canada, in addition to providing unpaid job-protected leave, most provinces and the federal government require employers to provide paid leave for victims of domestic or sexual violence ranging from two to five days.
The provincial government held a public consultation to solicit the public’s view on paid leave through an online survey as well as written submissions. Recent changes to employment standards by the NDP provide job-protected, unpaid leave for workers who need time off to deal with the domestic or sexual violence. Prior to that, people escaping domestic or sexual violence, recovering from it or rebuilding their lives after could not take time away from work unless their employer agreed. The province says it is committed to continuing to improve protections for workers.
In its submission, UFCW 1518 endorsed the BC Fed’s recommendations, stating that leaves of absence for domestic and sexual violence survivors should be available to all workers, regardless of length of service; paid for a minimum of 10 days, and unpaid for longer as needed; and requested in strict confidentiality to designated and trained employer representatives without burden of proof to the survivor.
Click here to read UFCW 1518’s submission.
Some of the community health workers employed by Bayshore Home Support are the newest members of UFCW 1518 after the provincial NDP government repatriated most of the private home care services in British Columbia. Announced last spring, the decision to bring home care in-house will reduce the uncertainty caused by private contract work and improve the standard of service.
About 70 community health workers will join the union as part of the Health Services and Support Community Subsector bargaining unit of Simon Fraser Home Support in the Fraser Health Authority. “We are pleased to welcome our newest members into our union,” said President Kim Novak. “We look forward to meeting them and working closely with them to continue to improve health and safety for our members as well as quality of care for our province’s most vulnerable.”
Transferred employees will maintain their pre-transfer status: regular or casual status at the date of hire. Employees who have completed their probationary or qualifying period will not be required to serve a new probationary or qualifying period at the time of transfer as long as they are working in a position that had the same job duties and qualifications as before. Employees who have not completed their probationary or qualification period will be credited with the pre-transfer hours.
Employees transferring will have the following entitlements recognized by the health authorities:
- Years of continuous service – for the purpose of vacation entitlement date
- Wage increment step and hours – including wage protection
- Seniority hours
- Sick leave credits at the time of transfer
- Special leave credits at the time of transfer
Regular employees receiving benefits pre-transfer will maintain benefit coverage according to the Joint Community Benefit Trust requirements. The receiving health authority will negotiate with the carrier to minimize disruption of the coverage and negotiate with the carrier to waive the waiting period for health and welfare benefits. Transferring employees who are currently enrolled in the Municipal Pension Plan will automatically be enrolled and the employees not currently enrolled in the MPP will be enrolled. Employees are not permitted to hold multiple regular positions within the same certification that exceed 1.0 FTE.
To assist new members with the transition, the employer held information sessions with the union in attendance and on October 3, UFCW 1518 hosted a meet and greet to welcome our new members. “We are proud to be represent these community health workers, whose work is so often undervalued, but who in fact perform an exceedingly valuable service in our communities,” President Novak said. She added her thanks to the British Columbia Government and Service Employees Union for their support during the transition.
UFCW 1518 will host another meet and greet for new Bayshore members in the new year.