Solidarity isn’t just for picket lines, something UFCW 1518 members at Hornby Island Co-op discovered in their recent round of bargaining. Ratified on March 23, 2017, their new collective agreement relied upon Ucluelet Co-op’s contract for cross classification language. It also drew support from Port Alberni Co-op’s collective agreement for the newly added sunset clause for discipline. “The fact that other co-ops are unionized helps them pull each other up,” comments Ashley Campbell, union representative. “The collective agreements get stronger with each set of negotiations, meaning that people’s lives get better.”
The inclusion of cross classification language was important, Campbell says, because it enables members to pick up hours by seniority in other departments, if their hours are lacking. “It allows members to work as many hours as they want or need; it also means they can move up the wage scale faster and receive benefits sooner.” The four year contract brings a wage increase of two percent each year, retroactive to the date of expiry. It also includes 50-50 cost sharing for benefit coverage for dependents where before dependents had no coverage. Members also received a $100 signing bonus.
The co-op, which began serving Hornby Island as a general store in 1955, is owned and controlled by its members. Like other cooperatives, it exists for the benefit of the people who own it, not for private gain. This is why the collective agreement contains a profit-sharing clause, which is triggered in years when the co-op is profitable.
But during bargaining, the profit-sharing clause was a point of contention, with the employer seeking to remove it. “They kept saying the co-op hadn’t been profitable in years, so there was no point in having the clause,” Campbell says. “Wouldn’t you know it, the morning after our members ratified the contract, they all received a substantial profit sharing cheque.”
Campbell credits the bargaining committee, made up of Joanne Ovitsland and Sue Horner, with keeping negotiations focused on members’ concerns and needs – including those of junior staff and future employees. “They were really great – super experienced and realistic. They really got us through.”