Clarity Cannabis, first in BC to bring back pandemic pay

We’re thrilled to share that Clarity Cannabis will be reinstating pandemic pay for their employees. This announcement makes Clarity Cannabis the first retail outlet in BC to reinstate pandemic pay since the province ended its full lockdown back in May.

UFCW 1518 became the first union to unionize private cannabis dispensary workers in Canada last February, when Clarity Cannabis workers voted to join the union.

In March, while still waiting to begin negotiations for their first union contract, Clarity Cannabis workers mobilized and were able to reach an agreement for a COVID-19 temporary pay boost with the support of our union.

UFCW 1518 is currently at the bargaining table with Clarity Cannabis. When the employer brought forward this initiative, our union was quick to welcome the news and sign a memorandum of agreement to make the pay increase official. This development is a prime example of what we can achieve when we work together with employers to bring improvements to working people.

The temporary reinstatement of pandemic pay is effective immediately and will continue until January 1, 2021. It will be paid in the amount of $2 extra per hour of work for all bargaining unit members.

British Columbia is in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontline workers, like the budtenders at Clarity Cannabis, continue to assume risks interacting with members of the public while they are at work. We welcome the leadership of Clarity Cannabis recognizing the important work of their employees and encourage other retailers in BC to follow suit. It’s time to reinstate pandemic pay in the province.

UFCW 1518 fights for fairness for over 24,000 union members across BC and the Yukon. Click here for information about joining a union, or you can connect with an organizer to learn more. If you are worker in the Cannabis industry please visit: ufcw1518.com/cannabis/

UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak calls on Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Labour to mandate mask wearing for anyone interacting with an in-home care worker

UFCW 1518 members in Community Health, Social Services, and home support have been sounding alarm bells over conditions in in-home care during the COVID-19 pandemic. These workers always wear masks when they enter their clients’ homes to provide care. However, they often encounter members of the household and visitors who do not wear masks while the workers are administering care to their clients.

“This situation puts the workers, their families, and all of the other clients that they encounter at risk,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “An important next step is to require those interacting in their homes with health care workers to be masked as long as they are medically able. Such an order would provide an additional layer of protection for workers and clients against the transmission of COVID-19.”

Today, President Novak sent a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry, Minister of Health Adrian Dix, and Minister of Labour Harry Bains asking that everyone who comes into contact with a health care worker in their home wear a mask if they are medically able to do so.

The letter follows an earlier letter sent to Dr. Henry that makes the same request and comes after Dr. Henry issued sweeping mask orders and restrictions for in-home social visits.

In-home care workers make visits to multiple homes in the course of their work and interact with elderly and vulnerable clients. They frequently have close physical contact with their clients, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. These workers are asking the government to help them flatten the curve on the COVID-19 pandemic by issuing an in-home care mask order.

Community Health, Social Services, and home care work is a critical part of our public health system. And like all working people, these workers deserve to feel safe at work. UFCW 1518 will continue to advocate to have government and employers make things right and commit to make their safety a priority.

Statement from UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak on Mask Mandate

UFCW 1518 would like to thank Dr. Bonnie Henry for instituting a mandatory mask policy for anyone entering a grocery store, coffee shop or retail location in British Columbia. This much needed public safety measure, which Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth will roll out in the coming week, will go a long way towards keeping frontline grocery and retail workers safe. These workers are doing an incredible service for their communities, keeping everyone supplied during a pandemic, and they deserve strong health and safety protections and recognition for the work they are doing.

Now that there is a mask mandate, and most restrictions in place by the public health office, we ask the public, employers, and public health authorities to remain vigilant against this disease. If you are entering a grocery or retail store you must wear a mask correctly, but you must also still maintain two metres of distance from workers and follow directional arrows while shopping. You must still stay at home if you are sick. Please shop alone if you can, and don’t linger in stores longer than you need to.

Employers must still restrict the number of people allowed in stores to the level that the Public Health Office deems acceptable. And we expect all Employers to comply with the directions of the Public Safety Minister regarding the enforcement of mask-wearing and any other Public Health orders that keep workers safe. And as always, there must be zero tolerance for any abusive behaviour towards workers.

Yesterday’s orders from Dr. Henry recognize what UFCW 1518 has been advocating for months: steps must be taken by government to protect workers in this pandemic.

We also continue to advocate for all frontline workers by calling on all Employers to recognize the important work their employees are doing by paying pandemic pay – because all frontline workers deserve to make a living wage.

While we are grateful to Dr. Henry for issuing this order to protect grocery and retail workers, we are still calling on the Public Health Office and all healthcare employers in British Columbia to require anyone coming into contact with in-home care workers to wear a mask. In-home care workers from our union have been telling us that they frequently encounter family members and visitors who do not wear masks. These situations put in-home care workers and their other clients at risk. We will continue to call for appropriate protections and recognition for workers in in-home care as they continue to help keep the most vulnerable cared for in the comfort and security of their homes.

After Months of Union Advocacy, Dr. Bonnie Henry Issues a Mask Mandate for Anyone Entering a Retail or Grocery Store

In a win for workers, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that anyone entering a grocery or retail store must wear a mask if they are medically able to do so.

In late October, nearly 2,000 members sent letters of support to Dr. Henry asking for a mask mandate for anyone entering a grocery or retail store. The union continued pouring pressure on the Public Health Office, the provincial government, and on individual retailers to do the right thing and protect workers by requiring mask-wearing for everyone entering a grocery store. We sent letters to every retailer where we have members in BC, followed up with Dr. Henry, and copied every politician in a position to create this change.

Throughout the pandemic, UFCW 1518 has heard from members who were speaking out in favour of mandatory mask-wearing in stores and in-home care settings. Shop stewards and health and safety committee members were inundated with mandatory mask requests, which they brought to the attention of the employer and the union.

UFCW 1518 redoubled its efforts to secure a mask mandate after thousands of members told us in a health and safety survey that they felt unsafe at work and wanted more action taken to protect them. Many reported aggressive and abusive behaviour from customers when they were asked to maintain distance or follow other COVID-19 protocols while shopping.

UFCW 1518 members have been required to wear masks while at work since the summer. While many grocery and retail businesses had already required anyone entering the store to wear a mask, several major retailers still allowed customers to shop unmasked.

“We thank Dr. Henry for taking this important step to protect frontline workers from COVID-19,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “Grocery and retail workers have been doing their part to help flatten the curve on the pandemic, and they deserve the strongest health and safety protections possible.”

COVID-19: Majority of Workers Feel Unsafe at Work, Reveals Survey

The majority of UFCW 1518 workers do not feel safe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic and want to see mandatory mask mandates for all people entering grocery and retail stores in British Columbia.

UFCW 1518 sent a survey out to members on Monday, November 9, that asked several questions about member health and safety and their experiences working through the pandemic.

The survey found that 61% of nearly 2,000 polled members do not feel safe at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 90% stated that they do not feel safe from COVID-19 at least some of the time while they are working and over 82% of polled workers interact with unmasked members of the public every day as part of their jobs. A further 95% are forced to interact with an unmasked member of the public at least once per week.

“The fact that customers are not wearing masks and keeping distance puts us at risk,” said one survey-taker.

Some major grocery employers have made mask-wearing mandatory for all employees while they are at work but have not extended the same policy to customers or any of the other people who routinely enter grocery stores. Those who have not instituted mandatory mask policies for customers have requested a clear order from the provincial government before requiring customers to wear masks.

UFCW 1518 continues to call on the provincial health office and the provincial government to issue an order requiring masks to be worn in retail and grocery stores.

UFCW 1518 members want stronger safety measures enforced

Many survey-takers wanted to see better compliance from the businesses they work for and more effort from the government to keep them safe:

“The company has cut cleaning and safety measures as well as our hazard pay. It’s sad the government isn’t holding these businesses accountable while they are making more money than ever,” said one survey-taker.

Many members reported inadequate plexiglass installations at tills and other areas where they interact with customers. Others reported being met with abuse when asking customers to observe distancing protocols or to wear masks:

“Mask usage should be mandatory for all public places and regulated and enforced by the government,” said one survey-taker. “We cannot be responsible to enforce [mask-wearing] in the store and be subject to harassment and abuse by customers.”

UFCW 1518 has been working since the beginning of COVID-19 to put additional safety measures in place for retail, grocery, food processing, and community health and social service workers. These measures include restrictions on the number of people allowed in a store at the same time, crowd-control measures like directional signs, and calls for mandatory-mask wearing in retail, grocery, and in-home care settings.

Workers Want Pandemic Pay Back

The survey also revealed that UFCW 1518 workers do not feel that they are being compensated fairly in exchange for the added risk they are taking on as front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19. 94% of polled members believe that they should be receiving pandemic pay for the work they have continued to do on the front-lines. This is especially relevant due to the dramatic increase in cases we are seeing in British Columbia.

Many polled workers spoke about the low morale they experienced when interacting with non-masked members of the public for no additional pay: “without hazard pay and the expectation of compliance, most of us feel we are expendable,” said one member who works at a grocery store. “Seemingly, the company feels the value of our lives is, in most cases, minimum wage, while their profits soar. We are tired, verbally abused, disheartened, overworked, and broke.”

Since the beginning of COVID-19, grocery stores throughout British Columbia have been receiving record-breaking profits. These profits have remained high throughout the pandemic, despite fluctuations in the transmission rates.

Many major retailers have refused to reinstate Pandemic Pay for their front-line workers since it was eliminated earlier in June.

UFCW 1518 takes action

In response to the survey, UFCW 1518 sent a letter to all retail employers today asking for the reinstatement of pandemic pay and for mandatory mask policies for everyone entering a grocery store. Letters were sent out last week to all health care employers with UFCW 1518 members asking for mandatory mask-wearing for anyone who comes into contact with an in-home care worker, including family members and guests.

UFCW 1518 continues to call on all employers to reinstate pandemic pay for front-line workers because all workers serving on the front-lines of this global crisis deserve to make a living wage.

UFCW 1518 Asks for Clarity Around Mask-Wearing in Retail and Grocery Stores

Last week, UFCW 1518 sent a letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix asking for a mandatory mask order for anyone entering a grocery or retail store in British Columbia.

On Friday, UFCW 1518 sent letters to health care employers across the province asking for anyone coming into contact with in-home care workers to be required to wear a mask if they are medically able to do so. Dr. Henry and Minister Dix were copied on these letters as well.

UFCW 1518 has yet to receive a response from the health authority or from the government to either of these letters.

With cases of COVID-19 rising at alarming rates and with new restrictions in place around gathering, grocery and retail workers deserve certainty about their safety while they do their jobs.

UFCW 1518 is asking for a reply from Dr. Henry and Minister Dix in a letter sent today. The letter requests a response and clarity on whether grocery and retail workers can expect additional safety measures to be put in place to protect them from COVID-19 transmission.

Union members and members of the public can still add their support to UFCW 1518’s call for a mandatory mask order for grocery and retail stores.

UFCW 1518 Calls on all Provincial Health Employers and Dr. Bonnie Henry to Mandate Mask-Wearing for In-Home Care

Today, on behalf of UFCW 1518 members in community health, social services, and home support, President Kim Novak sent a letter to all health care employers in British Columbia. The letter demands that employers take strong steps to protect workers by requiring clients, their family members, and everyone that comes in contact with these workers to wear a mask if they are medically able to do so.

“These front-line workers have carefully followed health and safety protocols to protect themselves and their clients from this deadly virus,” said Novak. “They deserve the highest levels of protection and consideration as they carry on their critical work.”

UFCW 1518 has been in constant contact with members in community health, social services, and home care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. These workers have informed the union that they are regularly put in situations where clients, members of the client’s home, and other parties nearby are unmasked.

In-home care frequently requires workers to come into close physical contact with clients. These situations put the workers, their families, and their other clients at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

On November 5, the Provincial Health Office issued an order to require medical masks in most healthcare settings. UFCW 1518 is advocating for in-home care settings to require a similar mask mandate for anyone who is medically capable of wearing a mask.

“We look forward to seeing health care employers take important next steps to ensure the safety of workers and their clients by requiring masks to be worn immediately,” said Novak.

Click here to read a copy of the letter.

UFCW 1518 has also called on Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to issue a mandatory mask order for anyone who enters a grocery or retail store in British Columbia. Union members and members of the public can send a letter of support here.

Bargaining Between Save-On-Foods and UFCW 1518 Reaches an Impasse

After 23 bargaining sessions, hundreds of hours of negotiations, and being on the verge of an agreement that would have significantly improved the industry standard while providing the employer more opportunities to grow, Save-On-Foods has withdrawn from their last bargaining proposal with UFCW 1518.

UFCW 1518 and Save-On-Foods nearly came to an agreement that would have:

  • Considerably increased wages for thousands of the lowest wage workers.
  • Paid the highest lump sums ever negotiated for top-rate Grid A and B employees in addition to the lump sum and off-scale increase already in the contract over the next two years.
  • Reinstated wages and benefits in quarterly review stores.
  • Provided more transfer opportunities.
  • Provided more access to vacation entitlement.
  • Made improvements to management structure.

Importantly, there would have been no concessions for our members. The union and Save-On-Foods had agreed, in principle, on a letter that would enable the company to buy non-union grocery stores. However, Save-On-Foods withdrew their proposal when the bargaining committee demanded a commitment that they would not close Save-On-Foods stores, leading to an impasse.

The UFCW 1518 bargaining committee was not willing to agree to language that would compromise union members’ job security, as any enhancements to the Save-On-Foods Collective Agreement become meaningless if union members lose their jobs.

When negotiations come to an impasse in a reopener, the matter must be referred to final offer arbitration for a third party to issue a decision. Once UFCW 1518 and Save-On-Foods settle on an arbitrator, that arbitrator will be able to make a selection of the two final offers from the parties.

UFCW 1518 will let Save-On-Foods members know when final offer arbitration begins.

“While this is a disappointing turn of events, and we are frustrated that the negotiations have stalled out, we are focused on what comes next – final offer selection arbitration, where we will put forward the strongest position to gain improvements for our members,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak.

Here is a timeline of the negotiations between UFCW 1518 and Save-On-Foods:

Timeline of Save-On-Foods bargaining

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: What matters had the two parties tentatively agreed to before Save-On-Foods walked away?
    A: The employer’s last offer contained transfer opportunities for members, more access to vacation entitlement, changes to the management structure, birth control coverage, movement towards parity for pharmacy assistants on Grid A, and more access for members to move to new stores.
  • Q: What did the monetary agreements look like before negotiations stopped?
    • 2500+ Grid B members would have received $1.90 to $1.95 by June 2021.
    • Nearly 5000 Grid B members would have seen $1.55 by June 2021.
    • The starting rate would have been $1 above minimum wage by June 2021.
    • The agreement contained lump sums up to $2,000 for Grid A and top-rate Grid B members along with unionized management positions.
  • Q: What happened to Pandemic Pay?
    A: We focused on making permanent changes to the wage scale rather than creating temporary pay boosts. With this contract off the table, we will be looking at other ways we can campaign for the return of Pandemic Pay.
  • Q: Will an arbitrator award us the contract that was agreed to before Save-On-Foods walked away?
    A: There are different rules about what can be decided under the Final Offer Selection process so both the Employer and the Union will need to amend their offers.
    We will amend our position after reviewing with the union bargaining committee and in consultation with our legal counsel. We want to put the best position forward to increase our chances of the unions offer being accepted by the arbitrator.
    We will keep you informed of what our submission to the arbitrator is.
  • Q: When will the arbitration be settled?
    A: If UFCW 1518 and Save-On-Foods can agree to an arbitrator, we will then immediately look to the earliest available dates to have arbitration scheduled.
  • Q: Could an arbitrator allow Save-On-Foods to own and operate non-union stores?
    A: No, this is not something Save On Foods can achieve in final offer as it is beyond the scope of arbitration.

UFCW 1518 Calls on Dr. Bonnie Henry to Mandate Mask-Wearing in Grocery and Retail Stores

With COVID-19 cases continuing to climb to alarming levels, UFCW 1518 is taking action to protect grocery and retail workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Grocery and retail workers are bearing an unfair burden as they interact with high volumes of people in stores. Many retailers require employees to wear masks at work. Customers, however, are often not required to wear masks while they shop, increasing the risk of COVID-19 exposure to workers.

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that there is an “expectation” that people wear a mask while shopping. Unfortunately, as correspondence from UFCW 1518 members makes clear, this expectation is not being met. Members have informed the union that they regularly have to interact with customers who are not wearing masks. These customers sometimes become belligerent when workers ask them to keep their distance.

“This is not acceptable,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “It’s time to pull out all the stops to protect workers from COVID-19 and bring transmission rates down.”

Last week, UFCW 1518 issued a letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry asking for her to order everyone who enters a store to wear a mask.
UFCW 1518 is asking union members and members of the public to send a letter of support to Dr. Henry to ask that she issue a public order for mask-wearing while shopping.

If you are a grocery or retail worker and are concerned about customers not wearing masks, contact us at [email protected] or call 1.800.661.3708.