About 70 members working at First United Church in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside ratified a strong collective agreement last week. The three-year deal built on the many improvements gained in their first agreement, with wage increases that bring the shelter resource workers and others closer to parity with those in the community health sector who perform similar work.
Most classifications will see significant wage increases over the life of the agreement, while a handful will receive lump sum payments. “When they first joined the union, our commitment in negotiating the first collective agreement was to ensure that the most underpaid workers would receive the largest wage increase. This was something the members felt strongly about: they didn’t want anyone left behind,” explained UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “In this round of bargaining, we continued to make gains in wages, so much so that First United Church is preparing to apply for recognition as a living wage employer. That’s an important accomplishment.”
The agreement also includes a comprehensive health and welfare package that is funded 100 percent by the employer, including full coverage for prescription drugs and paraprofessional services.
First United Church serves vulnerable people living on the DTES, including those who experience homelessness, extreme poverty and mental health issues and addictions. It offers emergency shelter, meals, legal advocacy and assistance finding social housing, as well as a range of programs designed to enhance health and dignity.
President Novak thanked the bargaining committee, made up of shop stewards Justin Juco and Margaret Edgar as well as Andrea Linsley and Sonia Marino, assisted by Director Kim Balmer and union representative Stephanie Smith. “Their commitment and solidarity throughout negotiations were key to achieving such a solid collective agreement.”