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.”