Workers at Lifestyle Markets in Victoria achieved a huge victory last week after voting in their first collective agreement.
The ratification vote comes after the staff spent months organizing, negotiating, and taking bold action to build worker power at the store.
The workers first began looking for solutions to problems at their workplace in late 2019. They contacted the Retail Action Network (RAN) in Victoria for help, a community group that advocates for local retail workers. RAN put the workers in contact with UFCW 1518. The union immediately began supporting the workers in their fight to build power and demand respect and accountability. Lifestyle workers voted to join our union in February 2020, becoming the first grocery store to unionize in Victoria in decades.
COVID-19 struck while UFCW 1518 was in the process of negotiating the workers’ first collective agreement. While many grocery workers across the country were given Pandemic Pay in recognition of the essential work they were doing, workers at Lifestyle received no such additional pay. The workers and community members fought back and put considerable pressure on Lifestyle Markets to fairly compensate the workers during this crisis. Finally, now that collective agreement is in place, these workers will be receiving this much-deserved recognition.
Negotiations wrapped up in July, and the collective agreement was put to a vote. The workers ratified the agreement unanimously, ushering in a new era of respect in the workplace. Some highlights of the agreement include:
- Hazard Pay retroactive to March 8, 2020
- The workers’ first-ever Benefits Package including health, extended care, prescription drug coverage, and dental benefits
- Paid Sick Days so no one has to choose between their health and their pocketbooks
- Enhanced Paid Vacation
- Up to a 30% wage increase over the life of the contract
- Harassment and Bullying Protections
- A Joint Labour Management board to ensure workers have a voice
- 40% of positions must be full-time
- A Retroactive Bonus
- Third-party Education and Training
- A Holiday Bonus
- 20% Store Discount
“We’re encouraged to see what can happen when people act collectively,” said Keira Zikmanis, Employee and Bargaining Committee Member. “Now that we have a contract in place, workers will be paid the hazard pay they deserve, move closer towards a living wage, and have the protections we need to make this store a fair and equitable place to work.”
“We were so inspired by how the workers at Lifestyle Markets stood up for themselves and built worker power,” added UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “We were happy to support them on their journey to building a more respectful workplace. That’s what we’re here for, and we want other workers to know that we can help them to do the same thing that the staff at Lifestyle did.”
Lifestyle workers stood up for themselves, fought for fairness, and won big. They stand out as an example of the power workers have and what they can accomplish with the help of a union.