In this issue:
While many UFCW Canada members are enjoying well-deserved summer holidays, a number of UFCW Canada local union staff and elected negotiating committee members are busy turning up the heat at crucial negotiations in western Canada.
In Alberta, UFCW Canada Locals 373A, 401, and 1118 are in separate negotiations with Canada Safeway, and 401 is in contemporaneous talks with The Real Canadian Superstore, a Loblaws chain of stores. At the same time, UFCW Canada Local 832 in Manitoba is at the table with Safeway as well. The immediate futures of nearly 20,000 UFCW Canada members in two provinces will be affected by these negotiations. And whenever major agreements like these are negotiated, the impact is felt by members throughout the industry.
Early talks with Safeway have been somewhat constructive, and the local unions indicate that Safeway representatives have thus far been open to positive communication. That in itself is no guarantee of an early or easy settlement, but it suggests that the employer is interested in finding common ground.
At the Superstore negotiating table, however, the situation has been much different. This enormously-profitable company is taking a very strange, anti-employee attitude, pouring huge amounts of cash into store renovations while ignoring the needs of its workforce and robbing them of their dignity and right to a safe workplace. Issues of public health, employee security, and even compliance with changes to legislation with regard to parental leave are being willfully ignored by the company. In a recent example, the employer has again refused to provide anti-fatigue mats for cashiers, despite the fact that even neanderthal employers like Wal-Mart have provided the same Alberta-made mats.
There are many individuals in the management of any large corporation, and regional divisions often have different ways of doing things. But, taken together with recent comments by Loblaw principal Galen Weston suggesting that the employer was looking for more “flexibility” from its workers, this situation is both frightening and ridiculous. Supermarkets in Alberta already are facing tough labour market conditions and find it difficult to get all the qualified workers they need – so Superstore’s heavy-handed attacks on its own employees make even less sense.
Both Safeway and Superstore are successful, profitable supermarket chains (see Facts on File, below). UFCW Canada negotation objectives remain consistent: shorter-term collective agreements, shrinking the wage progression, higher start rates, and worker rights and dignity issues. We will not permit these corporate giants to squeeze still more profits at the expense of the UFCW Canada members who work there. If they address the issues reasonably, they will find us to be reasonable; if not, they will find we are prepared to react appropriately.
UFCW Canada Local 503 was certified by the Québec Ministry of Labour on July 10 to represent nearly 100 members at three Archambault stores, a subsidiary of Quebecor. Members at the stores – located in Sainte-Foy, Québec, and Chicoutimi – sell books, CDs, videos, and magazines. The chain has a total of 11 stores in the province.
More: Murielle Desjardins, UFCW Canada Local 503; UFCW Canada Our Union magazine, Summer 2001
About 350 UFCW Canada Local 864 members at Maple Leaf Poultry in Canard NS ratified a new contract on July 29. They will receive wage increases of $1.05 an hour and a $200 signing bonus as well as improvements to benefits and language. Members who are volunteer firefighters will be paid for the balance of their shifts when they have to leave work to fight fires.
More: Mark Dobson, UFCW Canada national staff
UFCW Canada Local 175 members who work as cleaners at Pickering Town Centre (just east of Toronto) ratified a new agreement with employer Hurley Corporation on July 30. The contract provides the 14 members with a 75-cent wage increase, benefits increase of $1.02, and improvements to vacations and language.
More: Bob Linton, Kevin Shimmin, UFCW Canada Local 175, www.ufcw175.com
After a four-week strike, members of UFCW Canada RWDSU Local 1177, who work at Sudbury Downs racetrack in Chelmsford ON, ratified a new 18-month agreement on July 27. The 100 members gained wage increases averaging 8%, to as much as 25%. Improved language recognizes seniority in all departments, except the Bayou Lounge where shifts will still be distributed equally.
More: Blake Crothers, UFCW-RWDSU, www.rwdsu.ca
More than 130 delegates took part in the first UFCW Canada Local 401 Youth Conference, held in Calgary July 26-29, with the theme Youth, a Vital Link. UFCW Canada Director Michael Fraser was the keynote speaker, addressing the many initiatives undertaken by UFCW Canada to ensure the voices of young members are heard, as well as the importance of youth involvement in the labour movement.
More: Christopher O’Halloran, UFCW Canada Local 401
UFCW Canada Local 500R members who work at Métro Bel-Air in Joliette QC ended a five-week strike in early July by ratifying a new agreement that won their battle against employer demands for concessions. Instead of giving up their Christmas bonus and freezing wages for red-circled members, the 138 members retained the bonus, received wage increases across the board plus lump-sum payments in each year of the contract. In addition, improvements were won in the dental plan and CCWIPP.
More: Tony Filato, UFCW Canada Local 500R
UFCW Canada Local 523W members at Goderich Elevator ratified a new three-year agreement on July 20. The contract at the grain elevator on the Lake Huron shore in Goderich ON – covering 23 full-time and 12 part-time workers – provides wage increases of 2.5% per year as well as improvements in pensions and language pertaining to vessel unloading.
More: Steve Maize, UFCW Canada Local 523W
180 members of UFCW Canada Local 1518 employed at Canada Bread (Venice Bakery) in Langley BC ratified a new collective agreement on July 31, hours before an August 1 strike deadline. Members had overwhelmingly rejected an earlier offer that would have instituted a two-tier wage structure for new hires, as well as changes to scheduling. With a strike looming, Canada Bread dropped the concessionary demands. Instead, members won wage increases of $1.00 over the life of the agreement, as well as a $700 signing bonus, an additional 11-cents-per-hour to the dental plan, and jobs to be posted by seniority.
More: Tom Fawkes, Andy Neufeld, UFCW Canada Local 1518, www.ufcw1518.com
After 40 years of service to members, Leo Grandbois, UFCW-RWDSU special assistant to the president, retired July 31. Brother Grandbois started as a part-time Dominion store worker in Sault Ste. Marie ON in 1961. He was elected union steward in 1965, and became president of RWDSU Local 582 in 1971, a position he held for 30 years.
More: Blake Crothers, UFCW-RWDSU, www.rwdsu.ca
The Real Canadian Superstore
Sources: Canadian Grocer, corporate reports