UFCW 1518 members working at Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Vancouver and Victoria locations have won significant improvements in their first ever collective agreement. The parties entered mediation after negotiations between the union and MEC stalled late last year.
Yesterday, the mediator imposed a first collective agreement that includes a wage hike for all employees, in the majority of cases up to six percent by 2021. Following the release of the mediator’s decision, MEC announced that workers in its non-unionized locations in British Columbia will also receive a wage increase. “Because workers at MEC in Vancouver and Victoria voted to join a union, MEC employees in all BC locations will receive another wage increase effective immediately,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak.
But the union advantage is about more than higher wages, President Novak affirmed. “It is about bringing fairness to work and improving workplace conditions. In a unionized environment, workers have a collective agreement to protect their rights and a union to back them up.” She noted that unionized MEC workers now have shop stewards to represent them as equals to management in case of dispute or discipline; the grievance process enables workers to have their issues fairly addressed; and Joint Labour Management meetings ensure a transparent process for dealing with workplace concerns before they become contract violations.
The first collective agreement also includes retroactive pay to the Vancouver members who did not benefit from a pay increase last August. It locks in previously held benefit and wage protections, which offers security as well as an important foundation to build from in future negotiations. “We are very proud of the work of our bargaining committee as well as the commitment and solidarity of MEC workers,” said President Novak. This isn’t the first time that the union’s advocacy paid off for all MEC staff – not just those who belong to UFCW 1518, she added. “Barely two weeks after workers at the Vancouver flagship location voted to join our union, MEC announced a 50 cent an hour wage increase for all MEC employees across Canada. That’s power.”
UFCW 1518 Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Johnson said the union is pleased to have a first contract in effect for the Victoria and Vancouver locations. “Not only did our members keep the benefits they had, they have gained solid improvements. And MEC has implemented many of the same improvements, including an immediate 25 cents per hour increase, for all MEC locations in BC – despite ongoing statements to the public crying the financial blues.”
Workers at the MEC Vancouver location voted to join UFCW 1518 last August and while they were in negotiations for a first collective agreement, workers at the Victoria store also voted to join the union. This led to a better outcome for all staff at the bargaining table, Secretary-Treasurer Johnson commented. “There is strength in numbers. And MEC certainly took notice when a second location voted to join our union – that’s why our members got the wage increase that they did,” he said. “We look forward to the opportunity to represent MEC staff in all BC locations so that workers continue to see even more gains along with the continued success of MEC in our province!”