UFCW 1518 members at J & L Beef reached a tentative agreement on January 22, 2107, crafting a deal that made great strides for members – notably an economic increase of at least 14.5 percent over five years. “This does not include other monetary improvements that UFCW 1518 achieved in this round of bargaining,” explains Kim Balmer, Executive Assistant to the President. Over the term of the agreement, the wage increases will be between $2.23 and more than $5 an hour, depending on where members are on the new incremental wage scales. Full retroactivity on wages means the employer will hand out payments ranging from $3000 to $5500.
Significantly, members negotiated into the UFCW Pension Plan for the first time. This was a sticking point for the employer, but with patience and persistence, bargaining committee members Gerry Labelle and Narinder Lidde were able to keep the plan on the table. “Pension is deferred income that brings a better life in retirement,” Balmer says. “Now these members will enjoy a better quality of life after working hard for the company their entire lives.”
The bargaining committee also persevered to win strong over-time language, another important gain. “In poultry plants, there’s a huge amount of overtime. The employer takes the position that everybody’s working,” says Balmer. “But quite frankly we see it as a health and safety issue. Members need time to attend to personal health issues, appointments and family responsibility.” The new contract also features increases in health and welfare benefits, a boot allowance and an increase to the tool allowance.
Members at the poultry processing plant voted overwhelmingly in favour of ratification. With a strike vote securely in their back pocket, they had been ready to put up picket lines, showing solid support for UFCW 1518’s mandate. But with the assistance of mediator Mark Brown, both sides were able to reach a settlement.