From just 700 members to more than 16,000 – that is his legacy. When Bernard Christophe stepped down from the presidency of UFCW Canada Local 832 earlier this fall, he left a legacy of building a union with one principle above all others: the union is there to serve the needs of its members.
Bernard began his union career more than four decades ago, joining what was then the Retail Clerks union as a Safeway employee in 1957. In two years, he became a shop steward – and was sent to sweep the parking lot as a reward. By 1963, Bernard (below left, at an October UFCW Canadian Council executive board meeting) was elected to lead the local union, then housed in a basement office shared with the brewery workers’ union.
The building of what is today Manitoba’s largest private-sector union has been the result of dedication and hard work on the part of Bernard and the staff he has carefully chosen to work for the members. Recognizing that only by organizing the unorganized can a union’s membership be protected, Bernard made that his mission, with numerous awards for leading our union in organizing. Mergers, too, have played a role in the growth of the union in Manitoba, as union members recognized the strength Local 832 could provide. Packinghouse workers, garment workers, distillery and brewery workers, health care workers – these and many more found a welcome home in Local 832.
Bernard’s legacy is also one of innovation. His local union was one of the first anywhere to truly embrace new technologies by quickly adapting to mobile phones, faxes, email, and many other now-commonplace devices. His quest to serve members also led to innovation, with several unique programs and benefits developed exclusively for UFCW Canada Local 832 members – including discounted shopping at certain businesses, special group events, income tax service, RRSP programs, and more. Not content to keep the benefits within his local, Bernard was instrumental in setting up the CUABP, or Canadian Union Advantage Benefits Program.
Although retired from the local presidency, Bernard will continue in his role as a UFCW international vice-president until meetings early in the new year, and as president of the UFCW Canadian Council until a convention next March. He will also continue to be a trustee of the CCWIPP pension plan. The local’s former secretary-treasurer, Robert Ziegler, who was elected to succeed as president, has Bernard Christophe’s strong legacy of serving members on which to build.
In solidarity, Michael J. Fraser, Director, UFCW Canada
UFCW Canada Local 401 members at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton – on strike for more than six months – voted today to accept the decision of a provincially-appointed mediator. With Grey Cup-associated activities at the centre scheduled to take place this weekend, the employer (Economic Development Edmonton, or EDE) quickly followed suit and gave its assent to the agreement. Picket activity has ceased; details to follow.
After a three-week lockout, 138 members of UFCW Canada Local 175 returned to work at the Britannia Market IGA in Mississauga, Ont. The members resisted concessionary demands the Sobeys-owned store was making, and were able to negotiate a new agreement after three weeks on the line.
UFCW Canadian Council aids family of sniper victim
The tragic events of the serial sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C. area in October struck home for UFCW members – Conrad Johnson, the October 21 victim of the snipers, was a member of UFCW Local 1994 in Gaithersburg, Md.
The international office of the UFCW, in conjunction with Local 1994, immediately established the Conrad Johnson Fund to assist Brother Johnson’s wife and two small children.
“While no amount of money can heal their wounded hearts, our monetary gift can provide needed support,” international president Doug Dority said in announcing the fund.
Also in October, UFCW Canada director Michael Fraser requested that the UFCW Canadian Council make a donation of $5,000 to the appeal, and asked all UFCW Canada local unions to consider sending their cheques – made payable to “UFCW Local 1994 / Conrad Johnson Fund” – to the national office to be forwarded as a donation from Canada to the fund.
Members of UFCW Canada Local 1400 have ratified a first collective agreement at the Heritage Inn in Moose Jaw, following five days of mediation. Highlights include wage increases ranging from 75¢ to $2.29 per hour effective immediately, a wage progression grid with a 2.5% increase in the grid in the second year, and retroactive pay of 40¢ per hour for all regular hours since last December.
The two-year agreement also includes participation in the UFCW Canada dental plan, sick-leave bank, and a new recognized holiday on Boxing Day.
UFCW Canada Local 1518 has begun sending a new Online e-zine out to members and other interested email users, an innovative way of getting the union’s message directly to people instead of waiting for them to come to the local’s web site.
Launched in late October, the attractive hypertext (HTML) page features messages from president Brooke Sundin and secretary-treasurer Ivan Limpright, along with links to numerous current stories on Local 1518’s web site.
Similarly, since the launch of Directions in 2001 by the UFCW Canada national office, an opt-in email subscriber list in plain text has been used to let people know when a new issue has been placed online on the national office web site – both in HTML and PDF (portable document format) – in advance of mailed hard copies.
The approximately 1,000 members of UFCW Canada Local 500R who work at Loblaws stores in Montréal’s East Island area have ratified a new collective agreement. The new contract mirrors an agreement reached earlier in the year by members at stores in the West Island area.
The East Island members, working at four Loblaws stores, will receive an increase in employer contributions to the Canadian Commercial Workers Industry Pension Plan (CCWIPP) 50¢ per hour, from 30¢ previously, over the life of the agreement.
Other highlights include an increase in the dental plan coverage to 90% of the fee schedule, improvement in vacation time, an increase in the night-shift premium, a $1.00-per-hour premium for butchers with two years of service, and a Christmas bonus of 1% of wages earned in the prior 53 weeks.
Wages will increase across the board by 2% in the first year of the agreement. Thereafter, workers at the maximum rate will receive a 10% increase over the life of the agreement, with remaining members receiving a lump-sum payment of 2% for hours worked in the second and third years of the agreement, while seeing their wage-progression rate improve from 600 hours to 500 hours over the agreement.
Even after a devastating fire threw members of UFCW Local 1993 working at Hortipak and Hercules Moulded Products out of work, their union was still there for them.
The two Kingsville, Ont. employers, located in the same structure, had to cease operations completely following the fire. While Hortipak has begun reconstruction and plans to reopen, the future of Hercules is unclear.
Nonetheless, UFCW Local 1993 continues to work on behalf of members, says national staff representative Winston Gordon (standing, right). Following a membership meeting last summer – to deal with WSIB and other related problems – members got together for a barbecue and picnic. Winston says the local will continue to assist them into the fall months, still waiting for a reopening date.
Ontario’s Conservative government has gone ahead with its plans to defy the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision won by UFCW Canada on behalf of agricultural workers a year ago.
“UFCW Canada is prepared to go back to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary to ensure agricultural workers get the same union rights as other workers in Ontario,” says Michael J. Fraser, UFCW Canada director.
“The Ernie Eves government has ignored the Court’s ruling that the Tories violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by not allowing agricultural workers in Ontario the right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining.”
The Ontario government has defended its new Agricultural Employees Protection Act, declaring it necessary to “protect family farms”.
“That’s nonsense,” Fraser says. “The only protection they have in mind is for their friends in big agribusiness. UFCW Canada has already stated clearly that, while we will fight for the rights of agricultural workers everywhere, our intention is to help workers in factory farms, massive greenhouse complexes, and other factory-type agricultural workplaces to get their rights.”
Fraser adds UFCW Canada has also signalled its agreement to a binding arbitration/mediation mechanism such as existed in the pre-Tory legislation, which would avoid work stoppages in the agricultural industry altogether.
In the meantime, UFCW Canada staff and volunteers continue to work with agricultural workers, including migrant workers, to assist them with workplace problems. “UFCW Canada will continue to fight on behalf of agricultural workers in Ontario so they will not be second-class citizens,” Fraser says.
Workers at Strudex Fibres in Waterloo, Ont. have ratified a new three-year agreement with the employer, noting several improvements. The 130 members of UFCW Canada Local 175 won an across-the-board 80¢-per-hour retroactive “maintenance” increase, plus additional wage increase totalling $1.05 per hour over the term.
Other improvements include increased employer contributions to the trusteed benefit plan, pension plan, and dental plan. There are increases to termination, tool, shoe, and bereavement allowances, and more paid time for union activities.
In addition, in the area of health and safety, extra breaks will be added during heat waves, following conditions experienced during last summer’s record-breaking temperatures.
UFCW Canada members at two Olymel locations under separate contracts have successfully negotiated new agreements.
At the Olymel pork and poultry packingplant in St-Hyacinthe, Qué., 480 members of UFCW Canada Local 1991P will get a wage increase of $2.03 per hour over the life of the agreement. The previous 50-50 cost share on the employee benefit plan will be adjusted to a 20% worker - 80% employer contribution by the end of the agreement. Company contributions to the UFCW Canada dental plan will increase to 18¢ per hour worked, up from 16¢. Life insurance coverage increases to $40,000 for members and $10,000 for spouses and dependents, up from $35,000 and $5,000 respectively.
Meanwhile, 580 members of UFCW Canada Local 500R at the Olymel prepared-meat and sausage plant in Magog, Qué. have a new agreement with a wage increase of $2.70 per hour. Vacation is increased to six weeks for members with 25 years of service. The employer contribution to the UFCW Canada dental plan rises by 1¢ per hour worked, and there will be a 40¢ per hour employer contribution to the pension plan.
More: André Ste-Marie, UFCW Canada Local 1991P; Tony Filato, UFCW Canada Local 500R
Five UFCW Canada members are graduates of this year’s Labour College of Canada (LCC) national graduate program. Seen with national staff representative Brian Noonan (right), a graduate of LCC’s Class of ’87, are (l-r): Nancy MacKay, UFCW Canada Local 175, Ontario; Todd Janes, Local 1977, Ontario; Karen Belcourt, Local 1518, British Columbia; John Fata, Local 401, Alberta; and Patricia Newell, Local 175, Ontario. Labour College of Canada’s next four-week residential progam begins on May 12, 2003 in Ottawa.
Members of UFCW Canada Local 832 voted last week to ratify a new contract with Federated Co-operatives that will see their wages increased by 9%, with the first increase retroactive to June 1.
Most workers at the distribution warehouse in Winnipeg will receive $1.75 per hour improvements over the life of the agreement, with top-rated workers receiving up to $21.26 per hour by the end of the agreement, and most at about $20.30 per hour.
UFCW Canada Local 832 president Robert Ziegler says the union believes the contract is a fair one for the 95 members at the warehouse, which supplies Co-op stores and other retail outlets in Manitoba. “It’s a collective agreement that provides for reasonable improvements in wages, benefits, and contract language,” he says. “It’s also a contract that meets inflation and provides a level of job security for UFCW Canada members who work very hard at the Co-op and provide a valuable service.”
The Co-op workers will also see increases in shift premiums, freezer premiums, and footwear allowance. Overtime rates on holidays will increase, with time-and-a-half for the first four hours of work during a general holiday and double time for all hours thereafter. The company will now pay 100% of the premium on an extended health care benefit package – including vision care and prescription drugs – previously shared on a 50-50 basis.
UFCW Local 1400 members employed by Initial Security in Saskatchewan have ratified a new collective agreement with significant improvements.
Security guards employed at regular-pay sites will receive retroactive wage increases from 7.6% to 12%, depending on classification and length of service. Wages will further increase by 5% for guards at regular-pay sites over the final two years of the contract.
Wages will also increase by 3% retroactively and by not less than 3% in each of the succeeding years for guards at special-pay sites.
The company has also agreed to pay sick pay on the first day of an illness, rather than on the second day as previously. In addition, all employees will now have the opportunity to participate in the company’s group insurance plan with the employer paying 50% of premiums. Employer contributions to the UFCW Canada dental plan will increase by 3¢ per hour, and the employer will now pay 4¢ per paid bargaining unit hour into the UFCW Canada Education and Training Fund.
Members of UFCW Canada Local 1400 working at the Salvation Army Waterston Centre in Regina have a new three-year collective agreement, with all top-rate employees receiving a 10% wage increase over the life of the contract, and those not at top-rate receiving slightly higher percentage increases. In addition, all employees receive a lump-sum payment of $200.
Bereavement leave was also expanded, and members will be entitled to four days of paid leave per occurrence to look after ill children.
Although the employer had tabled a lengthy list of concessionary demands going into bargaining, the union succeeded in having them all removed during negotiations.
UFCW Canada Local 401 members working for Cara Food Services in Nisku, Alta., just south of Edmonton, ratified a new collective agreement earlier this year.
In the contract, the employer will pay 26¢ per regular hour worked into the UFCW Canada group dental care plan. The company will also pay employees’ Alberta Health Care Insurance premiums, as well as 100% of an extended health care plan for semi-private hospital care, prescription drugs, private-duty nursing, out-of-province coverage, and other benefits after $10-to-$20 annual deductibles.
The company will also increase its pension contributions from 20¢ per regular hour worked to 25¢, and wages will increase by an average 2% per year over the life of the agreement.
UFCW Canada Local 832 members who work for the Association for Community Living (ACL) in Virden, Man. will see their wages rise by 86¢ per hour as a result of their new collective agreement.
In addition to the wage increase, employer contributions to the pension plan will increase by 10¢, to 50¢ per hour worked. Vacation time has been improved, and the health-and-safety committee has been expanded, with all time spent on committee work paid for by the employer.
Sleep-over allowance has been increased to $40 per shift, up from $28 previously, and mileage allowance has been increased to 34¢ per kilometre.
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has launched its latest cyber-organizing effort – one that can bring immediate assistance and information to workers across Canada. WorkRights.ca is a multifaceted web site with quick and to-the-point answers to questions about common workplace problems, and sound advice on how to solve them. While it is careful to point out that “legal information is not legal advice”, and advises users to consult the appropriate authoritative resource for their problem, it does provide an opportunity for working Canadians to get quick and easy-to-understand answers that will point them in the right direction to reach solutions. In addition, the forum section allows workers to simply vent their frustration or cheer on the efforts of others. With a light, friendly touch, WorkRights.ca has something for everyone.