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Unionized Pharmacy Workers to Receive Pay Increase

But the real cure for short-staffed counters is permanent wage increases

If we want to fix understaffing, we need fair wages for the important work Pharmacy Assistants and Registered Techs do everyday. After many discussions, UFCW 1518 and Sobeys have finally agreed to a $2/hr premium increase for ALL Sobeys Pharmacy members in BC.

“Competitive start rates are a good thing, don’t get me wrong,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak, “They can certainly attract more resumes, but alone, they don’t guarantee long-term stability—and they don’t recognize the hard work of ALL employees who are working hard every day. To combat turnover, companies must promise their employees a good future so that they stay. And that means fair increases for all employees.

Just as pharmacies will benefit from new staff, they also need seasoned staff with a wealth of experience and knowledge that they’ve built on the job.

During the pandemic, pharmacy assistants’ workload exploded, as the public rushed to get vaccines, leaving UFCW 1518 members who work behind the counter emotionally and physically burnt out.

The new temporary premium that UFCW 1518 negotiated is a good first step towards fairer pay for these highly specialized and educated members. All pharmacy assistants and regulated techs at Freshco/Chalo and Safeway stores are set to receive the $2/hr top-up starting January 1, for all work hours worked between that date and March 31, 2023.

“We are pleased to see that Sobeys has finally agreed to recognize ALL pharmacy members with this program—now we need to push for permanent increases for all employees at the bargaining table,” says Novak.

Bargaining is set to begin between UFCW 1518 and Sobeys later this month. All staff across departments—including the pharmacies—will band together to push for better working conditions and compensation. President Novak says that bargaining is the Pharmacy members’ big chance to make wage increases and other recruitment and retention initiatives permanent.

“This is where our members can win real and lasting protections,” says Novak. “I hope Sobeys sees that these efforts will ultimately benefit their customers, who depend heavily on our members for so many of their needs.”

Source Office Furniture Ratifies New Contract

UFCW 1518 members employed with Source Office Furniture have ratified a new collective agreement thanks to the support members showed for their elected bargaining team. For the next three years, staff at the Vancouver store will benefit from several improvements to their working conditions.

Their monetary wins include:

  1. Wage Increases of 2.5% in years 1, 2 & 3.
  2. Increase in Forklift Trainer Premium from $1.00 to $1.50 per hour
  3. Increase in First Aid Premium from $20.00 to $30.00 per week
  4. Increase in Island Meal Allowance from $20.00 to $30.00
  5. Increase in Safety Footwear from $150.00 to $200.00 annually
  6. Increased Bereavement Leave

More and more retail workers are joining UFCW 1518 in the wake of COVID-19 to seek recognition for their specialized knowledge and to gain real protections in return for serving the public under challenging conditions. Do you work in a store and want to know how you and your coworkers can advocate for yourselves? Contact us at [email protected].

Yukon Save-On-Foods Ratifies Reopener Contract

Reopener ends with a successful ratification

Grocery workers employed at the sole Save-On-Foods in the Yukon secured significant improvements to their working conditions last week, after concluding a contract reopener with the west-coast grocer.

This is the first reopener since the contract was first established and included big gains: 

  • Significant Wage increases for all staff, including:
    • A big bump to starting rates
    • Increases to top rates for part-time and full-time workers
    • A new and improved wage grid for pharmacy assistants
    • A single wage grid for all employees
  • Improvements to vacation.
  • Night shift premium ($2.50)
  • Options for lunch breaks (either 30 minutes or 60 minutes)

Established a pathway to cross classification so employees are able to work across areas and capture more hours. 

As more and more UFCW 1518 collective agreements near expiry, workers at major grocers across the mainland and the Island are building capacity. At Save-On-Foods stores in BC, staff are working together and completing their bargaining surveys, where they are telling the employer what they need in their respective communities to make grocery jobs better and fairer.

Unionized Cannabis is Not Just a Phase

Latest BC Budtenders contract shows how the green movement has matured 

When the frontline budtenders at Seed & Stone ratified their first collective agreement last week, they didn’t just introduce impressive wage increases and improvements to one store. They brought radical change to three stores! As a result, all workers, present and future, who pass through their doors from here on, will benefit from this deal, which they can continue to improve in subsequent rounds of negotiations.

Some of the significant wins in the agreement include:

  • Higher starting rates (an increase of about 15%) 
  • Hourly scale with guaranteed wage increases
  • Improvements to breaks and scheduling
  • A grievance process and shop-steward language

One staff member, who was a leading voice in the first Seed & Stone organizing drive (at the Victoria Fort Street location), credits their incredible contract to the diversity of voices at the table. He said it was a big “morale boost” when the workers from the Delta location joined the union and sat with them at the bargaining table.

“They came to the table with their own energy and their own solidarity,” he says, “which kind of decentralized our movement and made things more threatening for the company and easier, from a solidarity standpoint, knowing that we were independently on the same page.”

By combining forces, workers from the Fort St., Gordon St., and Delta locations maximized their power. But this consolidation only worked because of the mobilizing that each store had done on its own prior to bargaining. In this way, The BC Budtenders Union, while still relatively young, is returning the labour movement to its roots. By decentralizing power, they’ve strengthened their unity and crystalized shared goals.

This power is evidenced in the high engagement at these shops. More dialogue and idea-sharing from everyone fosters community consciousness. What will raise everyone up, equally? This question was at the heart of the Delta organizing drive.

“What personally kept me going was the fact that many of my coworkers depend on this job to be able to afford food, housing, pay bills etc.,” says one member on the mainland. “Seeing how hard each of them work day in and out, I knew we needed things to change.”

Survival instincts often kickstart organizing drives. However, with widespread unionizing, workers can attain the resources that they need to push for more than the bare minimum (and win). One Seed & Stone budtender, who sat on the bargaining team, calls this phenomenon the “leapfrog effect.”

When a new worksite negotiates a contract, “we don’t get a lap around everyone but a few more steps [ahead],” the worker says. “Then the next contract, for either us or another company, gets a few more steps, and with more and more staff who are actualized, activated, and caring about their rights, organizing, and agitating…the quicker we’re all going to improve our industry.”


This change isn’t just theory. It’s happening. Almost three-quarters of the private cannabis retail shops in Victoria are unionized, and now that the Seed & Stone deal is complete, all boast a worker-centric collective agreement – each one better than the next.


Now that the workers at Seed & Stone have a deal with their employer, the next phase of their mobilizing begins. As one budtender puts it, “A contract is great, but it really takes them getting to know that contract and know what their rights are so that they can use it.”


Typically, workers who are the most adept at leveraging their contract have done deep organizing. This is a type of organizing that takes patience and relies on more than just meeting quotas (i.e. simply signing enough union cards to certify with a union). Deep organizing is about ensuring that workers fully understand that they are the union. What they get out of it depends on what they put in.


The Seed & Stone workers, for example, did not look to a UFCW 1518 staff representative to catalyze the change they desired. “I ended up hosting a meeting at my house last year where we discussed what we needed to change – what we wanted out of union representation,” says one of the worker organizers. “Then we had a union rep show up and give us the spiel about the process.” Early dialoguing and consensus-building were key to their success, and it’s this highly localized approach to activism that’s allowing the union to grow provincially.

If you are a budtender or work in a grow-op and are interested in joining a union, learn more at ufcw1518.com/cannabis or contact an organizer today.

UBC Students Unionize with UFCW 1518 to Reclaim Campus Grocery Store

VANCOUVER – After sparking a fast-paced organizing drive, workers at Grocery Checkout are preparing to negotiate their first collective agreement and resurrect the community-focused model that attracted them to the jobs in the first place.

On Dec. 4, the BC Labour Board confirmed that employees at the workplace, located in the Students Union Building, are now members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1518. Most of the staff are students, whose frustration with the business reached a tipping point when the new owners bulldozed its “by students, for students” design.

“Part of what we loved about Grocery Checkout was that it was committed to hiring students, who need the work and know the campus community,” says one of the workers. “We got to choose what merchandise was sold, how the business was run…we chose the music — it was a lot of fun. And we were all in it together. The new owners abandoned that vision.”

Grocery Checkout started hiring from outside the student body, even cutting students’ hours to accommodate new full-time employees who were not properly trained by the employer or even selected through a rigorous, standardized hiring process. Nepotism was running rampant, and the dedicated staff knew that they had to act—talking to the employer individually was not working, and the situation was dire.

“People need this money to survive,” says one Grocery Checkout employee, “students are getting screwed over.”

In addition to inflation, students also contend with crushing tuition fees, which the UBC Board of Governors just voted to raise. The new UFCW 1518 members at Grocery Checkout need better compensation, more in-line with the other on-campus private businesses that provide higher wages, extended health benefits, and even meal vouchers. The Grocery Checkout staff want to prioritize guaranteed hours, guaranteed discounts, and a ban on non-student hires moving forward. These asks were a long time coming; even before the new owners took over Grocery Checkout, their employer was not fulfilling their promises.

“A lot of us were hired under false pretences,” says one of the workers. “We were told we would have a certain number of hours every week. That didn’t happen. We were told that we’d get raises based on performance. That didn’t happen.”

With a union, the workers can infuse the store with its old grassroots spirit and finally hold Grocery Checkout accountable. Most importantly, they can face the employer together. Unionizing “is the only thing we can do to get power back into our own hands,” according to one worker. Another bonus, they add, is that a union will outlive their employment and continue “protecting students of the future.” The young workers say they hope that their action inspires more student-run organizing drives. “It’s about setting a precedent for the other private businesses on campus and saying ‘No you don’t have to sit around and take this.’”

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For more information, contact:

Celia Shea, UFCW 1518 Digital Organizer at 604-250-6483

Cineplex Workers Sign First Contract in BC 

UFCW 1518 says young workers led the charge 

NEW WESTMINISTER—After facing a challenging two years of layoffs and pandemic mayhem, Cineplex theater workers across the lower mainland took a significant step towards improving their working conditions and rebuilding solidarity after successfully ratifying their first contract yesterday (Nov. 30). 

Most of the staff behind the organizing and bargaining effort are young workers—teens, students, and part-timers. They joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518 to win fairness, respect, and democracy in the theatre industry. 

“This contract is a big victory for BC’s young workers,” says UFCW 1518 Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson, “Some of them aren’t even allowed to vote in elections yet. But they can work, and they’re using unions as a tool to voice their opinions—to effect real change and build civic engagement.” 

The collective agreement covers over 400 staff at the Coquitlam, Richmond and Surrey Cineplexes and will introduce several basic protections to the megatheatres. Notably, staff now have a grievance procedure through which they can resolve issues, such as harassment or violations of scheduling policy, and even challenge unfair discipline and layoffs. The staff also won student leave, seniority language (to reward experience), as well as two Great Escape Voucher passes. 

For mature workers and staff who plan on staying at Cineplex in the long run, this contract is a great stepping stone that they can continue to improve and expand upon when it expires in 2025. The first order of business for the workers will be to elect Shop Stewards (activists) and representatives to their Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committee. 

Johnson says that this week’s Cineplex success is a reminder to today’s workers that unions are not a relic of the past. They’re a people’s movement and reflect what present-day workers need as long as they get involved. 

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a first job, a part-time student job, or a full-time career—workers can unionize it. Who doesn’t want a say in how they’re treated at work? And who isn’t frustrated by at least one policy or practice that runs counter to frontline expertise? More and more employees in traditionally under-organized industries are realizing that they don’t have to stay frustrated and voiceless. They can join a union and enforce solutions.” 

If you work at Cineplex and would like to join the union, you can find more information at ufcw1518.com/cineplex or contact a union organizer today. 

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Members Celebrate Bargaining Success at Seed & Stone Cannabis

Budtenders and staff at three Seed & Stone cannabis shops are celebrating this week, after unanimously voting in favour of their first collective agreement, which will introduce several protections and workplace improvements into the Victoria and Delta dispensaries. The news comes just one week after members of the same union ratified a first contract at two Farm Dispensary locations.

Staff employed at the Seed & Stone Victoria shops joined the BC Budtenders Union – a division of the UFCW 1518 – in 2021. In 2022, workers at the Delta location got mobilized and joined their coworkers, strengthening the union’s power at the bargaining table.

“There’s a reason that 75 percent of the private dispensaries in Victoria have organized with us,” says UFCW 1518 Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson. “Cannabis workers are realizing that with a union they have a voice, and the more of them that join the movement, the more power they can build.”

By bargaining together, these unionists were able to maximize pressure on the employer and come to an agreement on life-changing workplace improvements, including:

  • Higher starting rates (an increase of about 15%)  
  • Hourly scale with guaranteed wage increases
  • Improvements to breaks and scheduling
  • A grievance process and shop-steward language 

“With this contract, the Seed & Stone staff have achieved a fairer and much more respectful workplace,” says Johnson. “Moving forward, they can expect safer working conditions, more opportunities to have a say in how they’re treated, as well as better wages.”

Now that the Seed & Stone deal is ratified, every dispensary in Victoria with BC-Budtenders-Union representation boasts a collective agreement. Across stores, members have revolutionized the industry. As the union grows, diversifies and ages, the standard that they set is only going to get higher.

“Organizing can be a bit intimidating,” Johnson admits, “but their courage pays off, if they stay united. The Seed & Stone staff are a perfect example of how far a calculated risk can carry you. By taking the plunge and organizing, they learned what they’re capable of, then they brought that confidence to the bargaining table and won big.”

The BC Budtender Union is excited for mainland cannabis workers to expand their organizing efforts. This work is already underway; just today, workers at Yaletown Cannabis Store in Vancouver formed a union with the BC Budtenders division. It takes a lot of passion and persistence to launch a movement, but it all starts with a phone call or an email. If you are a cannabis worker in retail or grow-ops, contact UFCW 1518 today.

First Sephora in Canada Applies to Join UFCW 1518

Employees at Sephora in Kamloops today applied to join the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1518 (UFCW 1518), which will make them the first unionized Sephora beauty advisors and sales staff in Canada.

UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak says this win highlights a growing movement of retail workers who are standing together to build better workplaces. “It goes to show that no matter what the job, workers need a voice, and we’re so excited for the opportunity to represent the hardworking staff at Sephora. This is especially exciting just days before Labour Day!”

One beauty advisor says that speaking up has been nerve-wracking but exhilarating, and they’re excited to keep the momentum going. “Sephora touts ‘teamwork, initiative, innovation, and passion’…we’re showing them how powerful those values are when we use them together,” they said.

Staff at the Kamloops Sephora are standing together to win wage and benefit improvements, so they can nurture their health while enjoying flexible schedules.

“The workers at Sephora are ready to build an even stronger workplace with great jobs that pay the bills and provide them work-life balance,” says Novak. “We look forward to working with them to make it happen!”

UFCW 1518 represents over 26,000 British Columbians in many sectors who are pushing for fairness in the workplace.

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:

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.