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.

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.

2021: A Year in Review

The year 2021 certainly had its ups and downs and despite many of the hardships and challenges, we have built momentum and accomplished so many things.

As we near the end of 2021, we want to look back and give you an overview of what we have accomplished this year and provide you with insight into what you can expect as we move forward into 2022.


After learning from the challenges of 2020, we picked up our speed in 2021 to continue to fight for our members. Here are some of the things that we accomplished during the first quarter of the year:

  • In January, UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak wrote a letter to the BC government asking to have frontline workers receive early access to COVID-19 vaccines. This came to fruition in the second quarter.
  • Alberni Co-op and Ucluelet Co-op ratified their new agreement in January, which included wage increases.


  • Cartems ratified their first collective agreement in February winning improvements, such as establishing seniority, a probation period and a tip policy in addition to severance pay and determining mandatory rest period between shifts.
  • Potanicals Green Growers workers negotiated and ratified their first collective agreement, becoming the first cannabis growing operation and extraction facility to unionize in Canada.
  • Budtenders at Clarity Cannabis also ratified their first collective agreement winning increases, sommelier training and scheduled raises.
  • In February, Save-on-Foods workers ratified a new contract that brought industry-leading and life-changing wage increases.
Members at Save-On-Foods voted to ratify their contract.


  • After fighting a sexist skirt policy, workers at Boston Pizza were welcomed into the union.
  • Members at Colonial Farms in Armstrong, BC ratified a five-year collective agreement that features major wage and workplace improvements.


  • In March, we called on the government to grant workers paid time off for COVID-19 vaccination appointments. As a result, the BC government announced in April that employers are required to cover three paid sick days at full pay until the end of 2021. Soon after, the government announced that it will create a permanent paid sick program that will launch in 2022.
  • In April, we welcomed budtenders from the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club to the union.
  • We also fought for gig workers to have free short-term parking. And after talking to politicians, a few municipalities are now creating short-term parking solutions for gig workers. Victoria and Vancouver are working on it.
  • During the April Education Month, we continued to use our digital education platform and had the highest number of registrants with hundreds of members taking on union courses.
UFCW 1518 members building their workplace skills through union courses.


  • After months of campaigning for grocery workers to be prioritized for vaccinations, members were provided priority access.
  • UFCW 1518 sent a letter to the BC government to prioritize vaccinations for grocery store workers under 18 and soon after grocery store members under 18 were able to get their vaccines.


  • In June, the CLC Virtual Convention kicked off with a record number of UFCW 1518 delegates. The meeting determined the actions that will set the agenda for Canada’s labour movement.
  • UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak attended the National Indigenous Rights Conference along with UFCW 1518 members to honour and commemorate the children found at the former residential school in Kamloops.
  • Workers from Trees Cannabis voted to join UFCW 1518.
  • After UFCW 1518 published a press release about the shortage of home support workers and how Interior Health’s scheduling program is making it more difficult to retain home support workers in the region, Interior Health wrote back and met with Kim to discuss the issues.
  • Workers at Cherry Park Retirement Residence and Rossdown Natural Foods ratified their new agreements, which include benefit improvements and wage increases.


  • In July, 18 young members from UFCW 1518 virtually attended the UFCW National Young Workers Internship program.
  • In partnership with Sobeys and Save-On-Foods, we donated a total of $10,000 to the United Way for the Period Promise campaign.
  • We celebrated pride by sponsoring Vancouver Pride’s anti-racism workshops and sent hundreds of union pride T-shirts across the province.
  • Matchstick Coffee bargained hard through a pandemic and won a strong first contract.


  • In early August, we reminded the BC government to ensure that gig workers are included in BC’s universal paid sick leave program.
  • At the end of August, we sent a letter to Dr. Henry asking that mask mandates be reinstated in stores that are not covered by the mandatory vaccination order and that stores be required to reinstate crowd control measures like wayfinding arrows to minimize contact between workers and members of the public. This is all to continue to protect our essential workers.
  • Hornby Island Co-op and Mid-Island Co-op ratified their new collective agreements with a 100% unanimous vote.
  • Avalon Dairy ratified their first contract and won major workplace improvements.
  • We had our 2nd annual Human Rights Week with online events featuring panel discussions on human rights, how to take action for Truth and Reconciliation and be an ally, and discussions on mental health as a human rights issue, particularly looking at the intersecting impacts of racism, colonialism and class on mental health.
  • Donald’s Fine Foods workers and workers at Non-Public Fund Employees in Esquimalt, BC also ratified their new collective agreements winning workplace improvements.
Members at Mid-Island Co-op gathered to celebrate their new contract.


  • In September, we sent a letter to Save-On-Foods, Sobeys and other employers calling on them to grant their workers a statutory holiday on September 30 in recognition of Truth and Reconciliation Day. A few companies, such as MEC, Lifestyle Markets and Clarity Cannabis, recognized the statutory holiday; however, other companies did not grant their workers a statutory holiday on September 30. We will continue to put pressure on the BC government to mandate September 30 as a statutory holiday. And in September 30, we announced our new Indigenous Committee made up of 5 passionate member activists from different Indigenous communities.
  • At the end of September, a group of health care members attended the Health Care Bargaining Virtual Conference to prepare for the upcoming negotiations for the new community health workers contract.


  • In October, after filing an unfair labour practice complaint against giant tech corporation Uber for unfairly firing Uber drivers without due process, the Labour Board met with the union to begin the process of addressing the workers’ complaints.
  • We held our annual Lobby Days event where, one by one, our members met with politicians and explained the need for recognizing Truth and Reconciliation Day as a statutory holiday, providing paid sick days, improving affordability in BC, fighting for gig workers’ rights and strengthening labour laws. Our members ensured that we’re moving the needle in fighting for issues that matter to our membership.
  • Annual fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada – BC/Yukon Region was a success with more than a million dollars raised for blood cancers.
  • President Kim Novak and UFCW 1518 staff and members met at the BC Legislature building with the BC Federation of Labour and other allies to campaign for 10 paid sick days to ensure that no one has to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe.
  • The UFCW 1518 Indigenous Committee held its first meeting to build the foundation of the committee and to advance the work of reconciliation within our union.
UFCW 1518 members lobbied the BC government and spoke directly to the Premier, Ministers and MLAs.

November and December

  • Three Safeway Extra stores (Willowbrook, Burquitlam and Dawson Creek) joined thousands of other UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway stores across the province under one superior contract.
  • More workers joined the BC Bud Division as we welcomed Burnside Buds, Seed and Stone Cannabis and The Original Farm.
  • Our November Education Month was another success as hundreds of members joined us on Zoom for member orientations, fundamental and advanced classes in stewarding, health and safety, bargaining, mental health first aid and other important topics.
  • In December, we held our annual Children’s Christmas party at the Burnaby Village Museum in Deer Lake. A few weeks after, members and their children met Santa via Zoom to let him know what they would like for Christmas.

Looking forward to 2022

As we approach 2022, the pandemic continues and we may face additional restrictions in the coming year. And while COVID-19 continues to be a challenge, we are in awe of your resilience and the incredible work that you continue to do on the frontlines.

We have a big year ahead with a lot of exciting work to be done. With your engagement and solidarity, we are certain that we can continue to improve workplaces across British Columbia and the Yukon.

We hope you are enjoying the season safely with your loved ones and that you are staying healthy.  We are better and stronger as a result of a trying year and have much to look forward to in 2022.

Happy holidays!

In solidarity,

The UFCW 1518 Team