Migrant agricultural workers in southwestern Ontario have a new place to call home, thanks to the efforts of UFCW Canada in support of the Global Justice CareVan program.
Thousands of migrant workers, mainly from Mexico and the Caribbean, spend much of the year working on Canadian farms and in other agribusiness operations. One of the highest concentrations of workers is in and around Leamington, Ont., where the new Migrant Agricultural Workers Support Centre is located. Established to serve the chiefly Mexican agricultural worker population in the area, the Centro de Apoyo para Trabajadores Migratorios is staffed by organizers and volunteers who can provide service in both English and Spanish.
UFCW Canada Assistant to the Director Bryan Neath (seen in blue shirt, cutting ribbon) says the new centre is representative of our union’s ongoing commitment to workers in the agricultural industry across Canada. “As the union for food workers in general, UFCW Canada has always had members working in aspects of the agricultural industry. In most parts of the country, agricultural workers have the same rights as anyone else,” he says.
The largest number of agricultural workers, however, work in Ontario, where, until 1993, the law excluded them from the right to join a union. When the Tory government took away that right again in 1995, UFCW Canada took the fight to the Supreme Court of Canada on behalf of members from agribusiness factories who had joined during the brief opening, and won. The Ontario government now has a little less than a year left before it has to implement new laws.
“We’re not sitting back and waiting for them,” Neath says. “UFCW Canada is working hard to persuade this government that any new law must include rights for agworkers, and, at the same time, we are continuing to organize and negotiate on behalf of these workers.”
Our commitment to agworkers has led us in many new directions since the Supreme Court victory, as we search for new and innovative ways to assist workers who are still denied fundamental rights. We will continue the fight to win rights and protection for all agworkers, whether working in fields or factories.
In solidarity, Michael J. Fraser, Director, UFCW Canada
More than 4,200 UFCW Canada members have returned to work in southern Ontario after ratifying an agreement with Fortinos supermarkets on September 1.
The agreement provides for wage increases of $1.80 per hour over its term for the members of UFCW Canada Local 175, following a strike against the chain’s 18 stores that began August 15.
Fortinos stores are located chiefly in the greater Hamilton and Toronto area. Although they remained open during the strike using scab labour, business was down to about 10-15% of normal at many locations.
Fortinos stores are franchise operations of National Grocers. Workers at the stores have been seeking parity with other NG stores in the region, such as Loblaws and Zehrs.
Members of UFCW Canada Local 832 who work at Avis Car Rental in Winnipeg have ratified a new collective agreement that provides for a retroactive wage increase of up to 40¢ per hour. Service agents will earn $1.30 more per hour while rental agents will earn an extra $1.20 per hour over the life of the three-year agreement.
The 25 Avis members will also receive an increase in their boot allowance to $90 from $75, and employees may now use eight days of sick leave for personal reasons, provided they give the company 48 hours written notice.
Poultry workers in St-François-de-Madawaska, N.B., near Edmunston, have reached a new agreement with employer Nadeau Maple Leaf Ferme Avicole.
The 225 members of UFCW Canada Local 1288P will receive a signing bonus of 4% of wages earned in the previous year, and a wage increase of 12% over the life of the agreement.
Other improvements include 10 paid holidays including the employee’s birthday, improvements to vacation, a Christmas bonus of $100, increased shift premiums, and improvements to benefits including health, dental, and short- and long-term disability plans.
More: Richard DeSaulniers, UFCW Canada Local 1288P
A one-year agreement for 59 members of UFCW Canada Local 1977 at Price Chopper in Kitchener, Ont. was ratified in late May. The store is part of the Sobeys chain.
The agreement includes a 3% wage increase and improved bereavement language. The union and company have also agreed to meet and resolve all outstanding questions and concerns regarding the employees’ pension plan.
UFCW Canada Local 1400 members at the Confederation Inn in Saskatoon have a new three-year agreement. The 25 members will receive wage increases of 3-4.5% in each year. Employees with eight years of service now get a fourth week of vacation (previously 10 years), and employer contributions to the UFCW Dental Plan rise by 3¢.
Following the end of the seven-month strike at IGA Drapeau in Charlesbourg, Qué., reported in the last issue (Directions 2.11-12), UFCW Canada Local 503 has made additional contract details available. Some highlights:
The progression scale for wage increases went from 875 to 725 hours.
All members, regardless of seniority, are now participants in the Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan (CCWIPP).
The employer contribution to CCWIPP rises form 35¢ to 41¢ per hour worked. The employer will also pay 17¢ per hour worked to provide 80% dental reimbursements.
Whenever there is an increase in the minimum wage, the starting wage will be increased to exceed it by 25¢.
Members who have reached 50 years of age or 20 years of service can obtain a reduced work week while maintaining benefits to which they were already entitled.
Bonus for the Service Department.
All cashiers asked to work between 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. will receive a premium of 80¢ per hour.
Premium for work performed in a higher classification rises from 50¢ to 65¢.
Do you work retail? Are you paid what you’re worth? Treated with dignity and fairness? Getting health care and other benefits? Have a reasonable say in your working conditions?
These are the provocative questions that greet visitors to youareworthmore.org, an innovative web site developed by UFCW Local 789 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. to “build a social movement” amongst retail workers – something that will generate interest in union membership in general while offering help to retail workers who don’t yet have union protection. The site includes general information and resources, as well as an interactive Ask the Rep! section where advice on job or workplace issues can be sought and dispensed anonymously. There is also a Speak Your Piece forum section that attracts comments from far and wide.
According to a statement on the site, “UFCW 789 is dedicating staff resources and expertise to help retail workers – not to build our union but to spark interest in making retail a better job for everyone, union or not. We believe every retail worker is worth more, and we intend to give every retail worker the chance to know their rights and take control of their own future.”
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