Workers’ Rights In B.C

You have rights. Here’s how to use them.

You have the right to join a union in BC. And if your employer tries to sway your support for a union, you can challenge them at the Labour Relations Board (LRB) with the union at your side.

You are protected by the Labour Code the moment a union organizing drive starts. The Code is your legal shield. It allows your union to lodge complaints on your behalf, even before a union vote and before you pay dues. When they receive a complaint, the Labour Board often assigns a third-party Special Investigation Officer to help the union and employer resolve the dispute informally. If the complaint cannot be resolved informally, it moves to a hearing.

Below are typical scenarios, pulled from the B.C. LRB’s website, that can be challenged with a union complaint:

Your boss claims they can’t provide the raise that they planned to give you a month ago because of the union drive.
Your boss asks you if you signed a union card.
An employer encourages staff to form a committee or join their staff association instead of the union.
A supervisor telling staff that the plant would be closed and their work outsourced to another country if the union was certified.
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Some red flags

Your manager starts calling you and your coworkers at home.

Your employer pulls you into one-on-one meetings.

When your employer does either of these and starts asking you about the organizing drive, or how you plan to vote, or bashing the union, be wary. Talk to the union you're working with about potentially filing a complaint.

Young Cineplex workers in B.C. are fighting for their rights and joining UFCW 1518

The Code bans employers from firing, threatening to fire, suspending, transferring, laying off, refusing to hire or discriminating against workers for wanting to participate in, promote, support, or form a union.

If your manager or supervisor is singling you out and changing your working conditions shortly after you’ve started talking about unionizing, or around the time you signed a petition, talk to us about filing a complaint at [email protected].

UFCW 1518 has won many workers their jobs back after they were unfairly fired. Read the success stories here.


Talk to a union organizer about filing a complaint. Your boss cannot offer you benefits, bonuses, pizza parties or any perks in exchange for voting against a union. Bribes like this are not only in violation of Section 6 of The Code, but they’re also a weak attempt to try and make you accept less than you are worth.

But who wants small perks in place of permanent protections anyways? Without a union, it’s harder to negotiate a good contract, and without a good written contract, you have no say over your pay, benefits, health & safety and more – the boss can go back on a promise or cut your pay and benefits whenever they like.

If you and your coworkers vote to join a union, your employer is legally obligated to negotiate a contract with you, which gives you the power to get what you deserve.

The Code protects you when your union files a complaint on your behalf or when you participate in other activities at the Labour Board, including:

  • A Board proceeding
  • Acting as a witness in a Board proceeding
  • Making a disclosure that is required by a Board proceeding

What are employers not allowed to do in response to your participation in the above?

  • Dismiss you
  • Refuse to employ you
  • Discriminate against you in terms of your working conditions
  • Intimidate or coerce you
  • Threaten to do any of these things

Unions have your back

While all workers do have rights, remember that until you are a union member and you have a contract, you are still vulnerable.

During an organizing drive, it’s critical that you only “talk union” and participate in union activities, such as petition signing, rallies and more, on your unpaid breaks or before and after your shift. That way your boss doesn’t have an excuse to punish you.

While employers can get emotional when their employees start the process to join a union, they only rarely stoop to illegal behaviour that violates the labour code. That’s because the penalties and legal costs are very high – they’re designed to be so that employers are discouraged from violating workers’ rights.

If you decide that you want to fight for fairness at work by joining a union, know that we will stand with you and help you every step of the way. All you need to do is hold your head up high, stick to your values, and pull together with your coworkers to create a better workplace.

New Contract at Sointula Co-Op!

Workers at Sointula Co-Op sent in a ringing endorsement of a new collective agreement that will bring major improvements to their workplace.

Workers celebrate the new contract at Sointula Co-Op!
Workers celebrate the new contract at Sointula Co-Op!

100% of voters said “yes” to the new contract. These retail workers came together and bargained hard for important contract gains, including:

  • Wage increases between 8.3% and 30% over the life of the 4-year agreement
  • For the first year, wage increases range as high as $4.25. The majority of the members will be earning at least $2/hr above the living wage for the area
  • Retroactive pay on all wage increases to May 31, 2021
  • Minimum wage adjustment so that no member ever falls to a minimum wage again
  • Increased hours restriction, up to twice per year
  • Easier access to educational leave (down to 2 years)
  • New Shop Steward Orientation on paid employer time

“The bargaining committee at Sointula worked hard to get major improvements that will help with the increasing cost of living,” said UFCW 1518 Negotiator Stephen Portman. “They showed what workers are capable of achieving when they stand together and demand better.”

Congratulations to workers at Sointula on their new contract and a big thank you to Bargaining Committee members Janet Pohto and Monty Hals.

If you work in retail and are interested in improving your workplace, learn more at ufcw1518.com/join-us.

BC & Yukon To Engage the Public on Truth & Reconciliation Day

UFCW 1518 is pleased to hear that the BC government will be engaging Indigenous partners and communities about the most meaningful and appropriate way to mark September 30, the National Day for Truth & Reconciliation Day.

This comes after the UFCW 1518 Indigenous Committee called on the provincial and federal governments to mandate Truth and Reconciliation Day as a paid statutory holiday for all workers.

BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin, explained that in addition to engaging Indigenous communities, they will also engage businesses, workers, unions, and labour representatives in the months ahead on the ways in which employers can participate and meaningfully contribute.

BC’s approach is similar to what has been promised in the Yukon. Premier Sandy Silver wrote that the Yukon government will be reaching out to Yukon First Nations governments and the public for comments on whether the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation should become a general holiday for all Yukon employees.

The union hopes that these engagements will result in the provincial governments mandating September 30 as a statutory holiday for all workers, so big businesses operating on unceded Indigenous lands understand the importance of this day and provide the opportunity for their workers to reflect, heal and honour residential school survivors, their families, and communities.

As she wrote in her letter, Indigenous Committee member, Christine Holowka, remarked that “making Truth and Reconciliation Day a provincial statutory holiday will be a huge step forward in the many steps that need to be taken on the road to truth and reconciliation.”

UFCW 1518 hopes that this will be the year that the governments show their commitment to reconciliation and support the healing of those impacted by Canada’s colonial past by instituting a mandatory paid holiday on September 30.

If you haven’t signed the petition to the provincial governments, you can add your voice now.

First Private-Sector Cannabis Retail Workers on Mainland Unionize

B.C. Bud Union Crops Up in Vancouver as Eggs Canna Staff Seek Fairness

VANCOUVER – Workers at an East Hastings cannabis shop are venturing into green territory after a union vote last week. Together, staff decided to join the BC Budtenders Union – a division of the UFCW 1518 – making them the first private-sector retail workers in the cannabis industry to unionize on the mainland.

UFCW 1518 currently represents growers at the Potanicals greenhouse in Peachland, but Eggs Canna marks the progressive union’s first organizing drive at a mainland dispensary.

UFCW 1518 Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson sees this latest grassroots achievement as proof that workers can be the loudest voice in the room and guide a whole industry, even one as coveted as cannabis.

“To put it into perspective, recreational cannabis was only legalized in 2018,” he says. “Profiteers obviously jumped to stake their claim and capitalize on this new market. But they weren’t the only ones to move quick. From the moment the first shops started opening in Victoria, frontline staff looked for ways to improve their working conditions and to have a say in how the industry was run.”

Fast forward four years and 70% of the for-profit cannabis shops in the capital city have unionized. Today, we’re excited to get behind the Budtenders at Eggs Canna and start to organize around Vancouver. Workers have been at the forefront of this industry from its inception, shapeshifting cannabis to benefit their communities, and their influence is only growing. These folks are unstoppable.”

Like so many British Columbians hired to sell cannabis products in the ever-expanding boutique bud industry, staff at Eggs Canna are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about cannabis. They care about the product, the customer experience, and the community they serve. The Eggs Canna website proudly states “We don’t hire budtenders, we train Cannaseurs.”

The workers want their pay, benefits, respect, and overall working conditions to reflect this high-level training. Ultimately, they want fairness. With UFCW 1518, Eggs Canna employees and their fellow BC Bud members are poised to raise industry standards.

Unionized Budtender Movement Expanding Across BC

Johnson also sees Eggs Canna staff’s success as an opening for more workers to join the movement, especially in large-scale private growing operations.

“At every point along the cannabis supply chain, workers deserve a voice,” he says. “Everyone that works with cannabis plays an integral role in its production process. From its growth to its distribution, sale, delivery, and eventually consumption, pot must serve everyday people. Workers can ensure it does by unionizing.”

UFCW 1518 represents 26,000+ workers in retail, grocery, food production, home care and more. The union continues to grow and represents some of the youngest and most diverse workers in B.C. If you are interested in joining the BC Budtenders Union, check out our website.

Wage Increases and Contract Improvements for Workers at NPF Comox

UFCW 1518 members at Non-Public Fund Employees Comox (NPF Comox) voted in favour of a new contract featuring wage increases, flexible work week schedule, and new leave of absence.

Blair Grinde, a member of the UFCW 1518 bargaining committee, worked closely with coworkers and union negotiators to craft a robust new collective bargaining agreement that tackles a number of workplace concerns. The new NPF Comox contract will raise wages for all members and provide more improvements to workers.

Some of the highlights of the new agreement include:

  1. 7% wage increase over 4 years
  2. Changes to overtime pay for a compressed workweek
  3. Flexible workweek schedule where applicable
  4. Added online job postings
  5. Added a 12th statutory holiday (September 30 for National Truth and Reconciliation Day)
  6. Maternity Leave Of Absence allowance (not indebted) if worker’s spouse is transferred to another location
  7. New Domestic Violence Leave Of Absence

The contract is being finalized by the employer and union negotiators, and when it is finished, it will be shared with NPF Comox members. Members will also be able to find a copy of their contract at memberresourcecentre.com.

Congratulations to the members at NPF Comox on your new contract!

At ufcw1518.com/join-us, non-unionized workers can learn more about the advantages of being a part of a union.

More Vancouver Native Housing Staff Join UFCW 1518

Workers say they want staff and residents to have a stronger voice in the Downtown Eastside Building

Staff at a Downtown Eastside housing unit for low-income British Columbians are getting back the support they provide everyday after the workers unanimously decided to join UFCW 1518. The vote took place on March 3 and 4 and culminated in a strong show of comradery between the staff.

Two workers at the Orwell building said they look forward to “being able to discuss ongoing issues and help solve them as a team and be better connected with the community.”

Solidarity and compassion drove this organizing effort, and it’s what the new members want more of at their intense workplace. Owned and operated by not-for-profit Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), The Orwell is a supportive housing building, home to 55 tenants – majority Indigenous – who require mental health support, and more specifically, support with drug use, disabilities, and intergenerational trauma.

Staff at the Orwell provide 24/7 frontline support that ranges from housecleaning to mental-health crisis intervention; they are also exposed to overdoses and instances of violence sometimes.

“With the limited training we have, we’re trying to provide the most culturally appropriate support that we can for these folks,” says one worker, but staff feel management is not supporting them enough.

After researching the contracts at other Vancouver Native Housing buildings, two of which are already unionized with UFCW 1518, and other comparable non-profits, the workers learned that they’re earning at the low end of the wage scale. Their other benefits are minimal too, considering the emotionally straining work they do, which is taking a toll on their own mental health and personal lives.

“Being a part of a union, my coworkers and I felt, would help protect us and help bring our wages up,” says one employee.

The group also wants to usher in several other improvements, including:

  • Better extended healthcare benefits, which they want to expand to part-timers.
  • A safer work environment with more support from management.
  • Job security so staff can support themselves and their families.
  • Fairer wages (equity between staff)
  • Good work-life balance.

The members want to create a space where they can advocate for themselves – where everyone has a voice at the Orwell Building, especially more marginalized members of the community. One worker says:

“I the union will be a stronger representative for migrant and ESL voices that are staffed at VHNS.”

The new members are equally dedicated to getting residents the platforms they need to advocate for themselves. “We think the tenant should be able to make their own decisions regarding medication, police involvement, institutionalization,” says one member on staff.

Their inspiring organizing drive is a reminder that when workers take grassroots action on the shop floor, their efforts rarely stay contained to the workplace – their power spills into the streets, the home and the community.

From Big-Box to Boutique — All Workers Need Unions!

Do you want a say in your wages, health & safety, work-life balance, dress code, mental health, schedules, staffing, overtime, and how management treats you? If so visit ufcw1518.com/join-us because you’re not alone. These are the kinds of issues that concern most employed people, regardless of their employer.

But nowhere are we seeing more of a push for justice than in retail. Grocery is no exception, where workers are taking control and designing the future of the industry, for the benefit of themselves, their families, and British Columbians, not the small handful of CEOs hoarding wealth at the top of the food chain.

At mega grocer Save-On-Foods, where the majority of UFCW 1518 members work, employees not only rose to the challenge of continuing to serve the public during a pandemic last year; they also raised the bar for industry standards, securing several protections in their new agreement, including:

  • Starting wages well above minimum wage
  • Automatic periodic pay raises for staff.
  • Stronger job security.
  • Expanded vacation.
  • Birth-control coverage.
  • And more!

Facing a giant — and winning — is no easy feat. It takes tenacity and a lot of determination, but it’s not the only success worth celebrating. As our members at small stores have shown, even a tiny workforce has big struggles and big aspirations and needs a union. During the COVID crisis alone, staff at two small, beloved, local boutiques joined UFCW 1518.

Unions Protect Local

At Matchstick Coffee shops, the employees’ fight for fairness was a proxy for a much bigger battle brewing against sexism, racism and abuse, which would have been nearly impossible to crush without a union.

It all started when former baristas, bakers and other staff launched a private Instagram account to swap stories about their horrific experiences with the former owner. Then, in 2021, current staff joined the chorus, calling for real, lasting change. Their bold and brave organizing move to join UFCW 1518 paid off. In July of 2021, they negotiated a strong collective agreement that not only introduced better wages, a health spending account, and 3 weeks of vacation, but also Joint Labour Management Meetings to promote a more harmonious relationship between management and employees.

The organizing drive at Cartems Donuts was an entirely different story. When the bakery’s Vancouver staff came to UFCW 1518, they mostly agreed that Cartems is a pretty great place to work. That didn’t stop them from organizing though. And why should it? There’s always room to make a job better and fairer, and there’s always room for democracy in the workplace, especially at a shop that claims to be built on “smiles” and “conversation.”

A truly local business supports locals, which must include the staff that keep it running. Both the Matchstick and Cartems organizing drives prove that everyone should have a say in their workplace. Cartems is a reminder that workers need a way to hold their employer accountable to their values, while Matchstick is a reminder that just because a business promotes itself as artisanal doesn’t stop it from acting like the next big corporate chain. Only union power can do that!

As more shops — in particular, grocers — jump onto the “buy local, eat organic, self-care, think green” bandwagon, working people might find themselves in different situations, but the best course of action always is to unionize!
Are you a grocery worker and want to ensure local grocers support locals? Join UFCW 1518 at ufcw1518.com/join-us.