The BC Labour Relations Board has ruled that Sobeys must pay about $300,000 in vacation entitlements to more than 500 UFCW 1518 members, confirming the union’s interpretation of the collective agreement was correct.
Previously, Grid B employees working at Safeway received vacation pay according to the Employment Standards Act. But in the last round of collective bargaining, the union negotiated superior language that substantially increased the vacation pay these members would receive in 2017*.
The union filed several grievances in late 2016 after Sobeys indicated that in 2017 Sobeys would pay the members according to the old language. “Sobeys’ action meant many of our members had to choose between taking time off without pay or forsaking their vacation time off. This meant they wouldn’t have time away from work to spend with family and friends, or attend to personal matters,” explained union representative Dave Archibald. “Delaying implementation of the collective agreement language either deprived our members of the very benefit of vacation entitlement or deprived them of compensation, causing financial hardship during the holiday season.”
Arbitrator Ken Saunders agreed that Sobeys must pay the wages owing to these members. Sobeys appealed the decision and recently applied for a stay, which would further delay the implementation of the award. “They’re dinging our members twice: once last year around the holidays, when they incorrectly paid out vacation. And again this year – just before the holidays – by seeking to delay paying our members the wages an arbitrator ruled they are owed,” Archibald said. “Quite frankly, it reflects very poorly on Sobeys.”
President Ivan Limpright praised members for speaking up when they saw an infraction of the collective agreement. “It’s important for our members to understand when their rights are being violated so we can work together to defend them,” he said. “Sobeys has got to learn that they need to respect and follow the contract. It’s not optional. And we’ll fight them every time they try to deny our members their rights and benefits guaranteed under the collective agreement.”
*Under employment standards, Grid B employees could work for Safeway for years and years and receive at most three weeks off with pay. With the new language, employees who worked more than eight years are entitled to four weeks off with pay and those who worked more than 13 years would receive five weeks off with pay. UFCW 1518 also negotiated continuous service language for Grid B members, allowing them to continue to accrue benefits, regardless of how many hours worked in a given year