Voting on agreements in health sector starts next week

The ratification vote for the tentative collective agreements for 2200 UFCW 1518 members in the community health and social services sectors begins next week. The agreements were reached four weeks after the two bargaining associations representing more than 30,000 members entered early contract talks with the government.

Highlights of the agreements include a general wage increase of two percent in each year and a significant amount of money toward low wage redress. This will be primarily used for wages, and may be used for weekend and shift premiums, on call premiums, statutory holiday pay, and other compensation to be determined by a committee. The agreements also feature improved steward rights, to ensure members have adequate representation at work.

These gains are important as they move toward achieving parity with those who perform the same work in facilities. “I want to thank our committee for their very hard work throughout this round of bargaining,” said Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “We are pleased to see improvements to wages and low wage redress which is long overdue, but as with any round of bargaining, we did not achieve everything we wanted.”

Negotiations moved very quickly and the relationship with the new NDP government is still developing. “Our work isn’t done. We need to continue to lobby the government on issues like contracting out – that is absolutely a must,” Novak added.

UFCW 1518 bargains on behalf of its members as part of two bargaining associations. The Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) is composed of 10 unions and represents about 15,000 workers in the social services sector across the province. The Community Bargaining Association (CBA) represents about 16,000 employees working in community health in British Columbia and includes BCGEU, HEU, CUPE, HSA and USWA, among other unions.

Voting for the CBA/HEABC agreement will conclude July 24. voting for the CSSBA/CSSEA agreement will be complete by August 13.  If ratified, the agreements will be effective April 1, 2019.

For the community health tentative agreement click here. The social services tentative agreement is expected next week.

Voting Information (HEABC/CBA):

Lower Mainland Ratification Vote

Interior Ratification Vote

Okanagan Ratification Vote

Northern Territory Ratification Vote

East and West Kootenays Ratification Vote

Vancouver Island Ratification Vote

Voting Information (CSSEA/CSSBA):

Interior Ratification Vote

Northern Territory Ratification Vote

Okanagan Ratification Vote

Tentative deals reached in community health & social services

The bargaining associations for 2200 UFCW 1518 members working in community health and social services have both reached tentative agreements after entering early contract talks.

After four weeks of negotiations and a 95-hour push over the last six days for a deal without concessions, the Community Social Services Bargaining Association (CSSBA) reached a tentative agreement with the Community Social Services Employers’ Association (CSSEA). The CSSBA is composed of 10 unions, including UFCW 1518, and represents about 15,000 workers in the social services sector across the province.

The three-year deal provides significant compensation increases in terms of low-wage redress for all members, while meeting the government mandate of improving the services that vulnerable British Columbians and their families rely upon. Highlights of the agreement include a general wage increase of two percent in each year; improvements to occupational health & safety, including a Provincial Occupational Health and Safety Council; and the restoration of statutory holiday pay for part-time and casual employees. The agreement also features an improved process to assist the parties in better labour relations, enhancements to health and welfare benefit plans to start closing the gap with the health sector, the renewal of the labour adjustment education fund, and funding for health and safety and violence prevention training.

The Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and the Health Employers Association of British Columbia (HEABC) also reached a tentative agreement with a three-year term. The CBA represents about 16,000 employees working in community health in British Columbia. Other unions at the table were BCGEU, HEU, CUPE, HSA and USWA.

The tentative agreement also has a three-year term and includes gains in a number of areas, including a two percent wage increase in each year, a low wage redress clause, and stronger protections against contracting out. Other highlights include a $250,000 education fund, three paid days of domestic violence leave,  $750,000 for the Joint Provincial Health, Safety and Violence Prevention Committee, $1.1 million for the Joint Community Benefit Trust Program, and $816,000 for the Early Disability Management Program.

Both bargaining associations will provide comprehensive reports on the agreements before holding ratification votes in the coming weeks.

Truth to Power: Lobbying the NDP Government

The UFCW 1518 crew outside the BC Legislature in Victoria, BC

Fifty members from all sectors across the province gathered in Victoria last May to speak truth to power at UFCW 1518’s first Lobby Day in 16 years.

The event kicked off with a four-hour workshop for executive board members, activists and stewards to train them in the fine art of lobbying. “It’s been a year since the election and we wanted to celebrate the new NDP government and all of the important changes they’ve made for working people and families,” says executive assistant Patrick Johnson. “What better way than to meet with ministers and MLAs and continue to carry forward the message of our members, which is that there’s still work to be done?”

About 20 ministers and MLAs attended a meet-and-greet co-hosted by the Retail Action Network, a network of retail workers and labour activists that fights for workplace justice and improved conditions in the retail sector.

“It was an incredible opportunity for our members to meet and chat informally with politicians who are the decision makers on really important issues, like poverty reduction, Labour Relations Code reform and the need to protect precarious workers,” comments Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “And importantly, it helped nurture relationships between the union and the ruling government. That is simply invaluable.”

Creating opportunities to connect with political leaders is essential to ensure the government knows what working people need.

Novak says that after attending the evening social event, Health Minister Adrian Dix reached out to her to schedule a formal meeting at the Legislature the next day. In all, members and leadership sat down with 13 ministers and MLAs, including Harry Bains, the Minister of Labour.

“Creating opportunities to connect with political leaders is essential if we are to ensure the government knows what working people need,” Novak explains. “Minister Bains understands the complexity of the Sobeys dispute, the difficulties it is causing for our members, and the potential negative impact on our economy. And he is open to hearing from working people. That’s powerful.”

Members also met with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Education.

Danielle Stohl, a care aide who works at Nanaimo Home Support, says she was honoured to represent UFCW 1518 in her meeting with Leonard Krod, the MLA for Nanaimo. “We have so many problems at work, and also in our community. Leonard is my MLA and I was able to tell him about them face to face, which is amazing.”

Righting Past Wrongs: Reconciliation in the Workplace & Beyond

Members Katrina Michels, Anita Letendre and Dulcie August outside the Chief Joe Mathias Centre in the Capilano Reserve

Their days began at 5:30am. Before breakfast, morning chores included cleaning washrooms, milking cows and sweeping floors. After morning mass and three hours of classes, there was more work to be done. Children prepared meals for the following day, weeded gardens and chopped wood. It was forbidden to speak in their mother tongue or to interact with their siblings. If they were lucky, there were a couple of hours to play and study. Students worked more hours than a full-time worker does today. They had no sick days or weekends off. The youngest among them was five.

For over a century, the Canadian government placed over 150,000 Indigenous children in residential schools where they were subject to forced labour, physical and sexual abuse and starvation. An estimated 6000 died. Taken from their families, often forcibly, a third of these children would never return home. Save-On-Foods member Dulcie August is a residential school survivor: she knows this story too well. “Most of my friends are gone now,” she says. August belongs to the Squamish First Nation and is the sibling of former Squamish Chief Joe Mathias. “My friends committed suicide or got into drugs,” she continues. “They just couldn’t handle remembering anymore.”

Shamefully, the last residential school did not close until 1996 and the destructive legacies of colonization continue to this day. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) called the residential school system a policy of cultural genocide. Established in 2008, the TRC interviewed nearly 7000 residential school survivors. In its final report, delivered seven years later, it explained how the Canadian government accomplished cultural genocide by eliminating Indigenous governments, ignoring Indigenous rights, terminating the treaties and through assimilation causing the erasure of Indigenous people as legal, social, cultural, religious and racial entities in Canada.

The focus of the TRC was to understand the legacy of the residential school system in order to lay the foundation for reconciliation. Its 94 calls to action are not only an invitation to begin that process: they are an indictment of the inequitable relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous that remains ongoing. For Canada’s First Nations, colonization has not ended.

 

SETTLERS

“We didn’t choose to go live in a reserve,” says Gary Johnson, a shop steward at Safeway in Powell River. “It was the government who put us there.” Johnson belongs to the Gitsan and Carrier bands from the Glen Vowell and Babine Nations, and grew up on a reserve in northern BC.

Along with the residential school system, the reserve system was forced upon the First Nations in British Columbia, a province where the vast majority of land is unceded. That means it was never formally relinquished through the signing of treaties. Aboriginal title is an unresolved issue that causes conflict with settler society over natural resources across Canada. In BC, however, the courts have been decisive in recent years that the government does not have clear title to the land.

A 2014 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada was particularly momentous for Indigenous land rights. The ruling acknowledged the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s entitlement to their ancestral land not signed away in treaties. Today many of the land claims launched by BC’s First Nations are unresolved or abandoned. But shortly after being elected in 2017, the NDP agreed to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signaling its commitment to reconciliation and land recognition.

Respect for Indigenous land is part of reconciliation, says Judy Wilson, Chief of the Neskonlith First Nation. “When you look at reserve creation and how they placed us on 0.2 percent of the land base of Canada, while the Crown assumed their title to 99.8 percent, that was not coexisting with Indigenous people.” Chief Wilson is a leader in land defense against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, a project that proposes to cross her band’s territory without their consent. Despite fierce opposition from the Neskonlith and other First Nations, individuals and community organizations, the pipeline is being pushed by the federal government. “The pipeline threatens our culture, our spirituality and our identity, our way of life,” Chief Wilson told the media at Kinder Morgan’s Annual General Meeting in Texas. “That means, fundamentally, more to us than anything…”

Dispossession of the land is more than a physical loss to Indigenous people. “The essential harm of colonization is that the living relationship between our people and our land has been severed,” writes Taiaiake Alfred in his essay It’s All About the Land. “By fraud, abuse, violence and sheer force of numbers, white society had forced us into the situation of being refugees and trespassers in our own homelands and we are prevented from maintaining the physical, spiritual and cultural relationships necessary for our continuation as nations.”

The colonial legacy of land dispossession surfaces in the labour movement. UFCW 1518’s main office, for example, sits on the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation. A plaque in the foyer offers this recognition. “By acknowledging the history of this land, we recognize the injustice that took place,” says President Ivan Limpright. “It is a small but necessary step toward reconciliation, toward righting a wrong that we ourselves didn’t commit, but that we are all responsible to rectify.”

That’s why UFCW 1518’s meeting rooms have been renamed after the First Nations in regions where many union members live, including Qayqayt, Sto:lo, Tsleil-Waututh, Songhees and Musqueam. Union meetings and events now begin with a territorial acknowledgement and often, a traditional welcome by the Chief of the Qayqayt First Nation, Rhonda Larrabee. “When members come to a union meeting at Qayqayt Hall and hear about the truth of the land, the learning begins, and hopefully, the healing too,” adds President Limpright.

 

WORKERS

“When the social services people came after my mother passed away, they said we were going to get a good education. They promised we would get looked after every day,” explains August about they day she was taken to residential school. “It was the total opposite. All the work became routine to me at some point. For four years I did everything they said, every day, until my sister got us out of there and showed me a freedom I didn’t know I had.”

According to the TRC, the residential school was also a system of institutionalized child labour. Although the labour movement was instrumental in establishing laws regulating child labour, residential schools were somehow exempt. Education in these institutions was undermined by the significant amount of work children were forced to do. They were in the classroom for half a day and the rest of their time was spent in so-called vocational training: repetitive, unsafe and often unsupervised work that provided little in the way of skills development. Such a regimen fulfilled the purpose of operating the schools on a nearly cost-free basis, but at great expense to First Nations children.

The residential school system inflicted deep emotional and psychological damage on Indigenous children that would be passed down through generations. But that wasn’t the only damning legacy: the theft of educational and economic success of Indigenous people is another lasting scar. The inadequate and abusive learning environments contributed to the poor success rates of First Nations students, many of whom left residential school with no more than Grade 3 achievement — and sometimes without even the ability to read. This, in turn, has led to today’s chronic unemployment or under-employment of Indigenous workers as well as the cycle of poverty and addiction that afflicts many First Nations people.

The labour movement stands for equality, so it just makes sense to me that our union plays a part in reconciliation.

While there is no consensus as to what reconciliation means, what is certain is that it is everyone’s responsibility, including unionized workers. “The labour movement stands for equality, so it just makes sense to me that our union plays a part in reconciliation,” says Johnson.

As part of its social justice mandate, UFCW Canada is committed to fostering reconciliation in workplaces and communities across the country. Using an established reconciliation framework, the Indigenous Sub-Committee fights for Indigenous justice by celebrating and promoting events aimed at educating workers and the public about First Nations rights and history. One such event is the National Indigenous Peoples Day celebration, which takes place in June in Winnipeg. Organized by UFCW 832, the annual event is an opportunity for Indigenous workers, including members of UFCW 1518, to build solidarity and celebrate their heritage.

Additionally, the sub-committee advocates for policy changes at all levels of government to advance equity for Indigenous workers throughout the country. It also supports other like-minded social justice organizations, such as the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. This work is advanced through campaigns like the one demanding an end to the discrimination of Indigenous children. The online campaign calls upon the federal government to “address the flawed delivery and inadequate funding of health care, education, and other social services for First Nations children.”

At the local level, another way unions advance reconciliation is by organizing Indigenous workers. In 1990, workers at the Vancouver Native Housing Society voted to join UFCW 1518. The society is a non-profit organization that provides affordable housing to the urban Indigenous community. “When we organize First Nations workers and bring the union to Indigenous-dominated workplaces, we bring fairness where it has systemically been lacking,” comments President Limpright. “When we acknowledge their celebrations, we honour their heritage. And when we fight for First Nations people at the level of policy, we address structural inequities that have harmed them for too long. Those are things unions can and should do.”

 

FIGHTERS

“I see injustice all over the place,” says Johnson. “Our people get mistreated for being native and it’s because people are biased in their perception of what it means to be Indigenous.” In order for the labour movement to account for its role in colonization, unions need to reevaluate their practices in everything from organizing and hiring to member engagement and education. They also need to ensure they are actively reaching out to First Nations communities in order to foster a better understanding of their needs in the reconciliation process.

“Growing up in school people used to call me a squaw,” recounts Save-On-Foods member and shop steward Anita Letendre. “I didn’t learn until later that was a derogative term for Indigenous people.” Letendre grew up in foster care with little knowledge of her heritage. Nevertheless, she has experienced racialized oppression and prejudice her entire life, including in the workplace: “I worked at a restaurant for a while. One day a customer said to me when I went up to her table, ‘when did they start letting people like you work here? You know, Indian people.’”

UFCW Canada and locals like UFCW 1518 have taken the first steps toward reconciliation, but there is more to be done. “We must continually build opportunities for education and reconciliation into the daily work of the union,” comments President Limpright. “That’s why we invite First Nations people to our union office and our events. That connection, that firsthand learning, is essential if we are to properly address the ongoing ill effects of colonialization.”

President Limpright points to the 2018 Health Care Conference, where members and staff were invited to participate in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. The interactive workshop brings Indigenous history to life by asking participants to take on the role of First Nations people in Canada. Standing on blankets that represent the land, they watch it slowly disappear before their eyes. With many in tears at the end, participants shared the same disbelief: How could we have not known? More importantly they asked: what can we do now that we do?

After hundreds of years of colonization, reconciliation is sure to take time. Unions are well positioned to lead the way, but the process is not entirely formal or structural; there is personal responsibility as well. “It is in our daily conversations and interactions that our success as a nation in forging a better place will ultimately be measured,” says Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the TRC. “It is what we say to and about each other in public and private that we need to look at changing.”

SOF reopener ratified in province-wide vote

Voting on the Save-On-Foods final settlement agreement concluded today, and was ratified by 83 percent. The new terms will be in effect as of Sunday, June 10, 2018.

The vote was held in 45 locations across BC throughout the week. Bargaining committee members, staff and leadership were at polling locations to explain the agreement and answer questions. “We want to thank all of the members who came out to vote over the last five days across the province,” said Secretary Treasurer Kim Novak.

The new agreement for the reopener significantly strengthened Quarterly Review language by limiting the number of existing stores that can be put under review to a maximum of five existing stores in 2020, 2021 and 2022 with no existing stores being placed under Quarterly Review in 2018 or 2019. This means long term job security improvements, in addition to maintaining wages and benefits for members, while also making financial improvements.

Other important gains include:

  • 17 stores REMOVED from Quarterly Review and returned to full terms of the collective agreement, including stores that have had an ATO and wage freeze
  • Combination of lump sum payments and off-scale wage increases for top rate Grid A and non-Grid A employees
    Vacation bridging for Grid A employees who have had breaks in service for years where such employees dropped below 1450 hours worked
  • All non-Grid A employees to move to ONE wage scale with an improved top rate and ALL non-Grid A employees receive a wage increase Sunday after ratification
  • Sick time for non-Grid A employees
  • Short term disability plan & reduction in qualification time for the Employee Benefit Plan
  • Domestic Violence Leave of Absence, including a paid day component
  • Salaried Key Personnel will be paid out hours worked above 40 hours per week if they are NOT provided the lieu time within the month
  • Restrictions on future acquisitions of convenience stores and drug stores that are non-union to under 5,000square feet. Any increase to square footage, new stores that open and any acquisition store that falls under theSave-On-Foods or any Overwaitea Food Group banner will fall under the applicable contract
  • Increased opportunity to move between stores – more job postings will be available to all employees (including
    Key Personnel) and will be awarded by seniority
  • Closer to Home transfer opportunities monthly (vs. once per year)
  • New pilot project to allow Pharmacy Assistants to maximize hours by working in other stores, while performing
    pharmacy work
  • Restrictions on vendor stocking that include language protecting existing employee hours, strictly limiting the
    number of vendors, and limiting the scope of work that can be performed
  • Opportunity to select vacation during the blackout week where Christmas Day falls

Special Officer hears arguments on FreshCo

UFCW 1518 and Sobeys met with Special Officer Vince Ready, who heard arguments regarding the company’s request to negotiate a FreshCo collective agreement. Mr. Ready was appointed by the government to intervene in the dispute between the union and Sobeys, which affects upwards of Safeway 1000 workers.

The parties met on June 1.

“Sobeys believes it has the right to use the new banner language in the Safeway collective agreement to require the union to negotiate a new collective agreement with FreshCo. Failing that, they want to go to final offer selection arbitration,” said President Limpright. “Obviously we disagree with that position.” UFCW 1518 has grieved Sobeys’ reliance on the new banner language provision.

Sobeys is also seeking an order to prevent the public disclosure of any financial and commercial information introduced in the proceedings. “Sobeys doesn’t want our members to know about what’s going on in these hearings. But I believe our members have a right to be fully informed of the evidence,” President Limpright commented. “It is essential that these proceedings are open and transparent. That’s the only way our members and the public can have confidence in the fairness and impartiality of the hearing.”

Mr. Ready has reserved his decision on both issues.

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Special Officer meets with union as Section 106 proceedings get underway

UFCW 1518 met with  Vince Ready last week to begin proceedings under Section 106 of the Labour Relations Code. Labour Minister Harry Bains appointed Mr. Ready as Special Officer when talks between the union and Sobeys faltered in April.

“We needed the government to intervene. Sobeys announced 10 store closures, tabled a concessions-only set of proposals and then refused to respond to the union’s proposals,” explained President Ivan Limpright. As Special Officer, Mr. Ready has the power to mediate, arbitrate and make binding orders.

On May 28, the bargaining committee met with Mr. Ready, and the union’s retail consultant Andrea Elliot presented her recovery plan for Safeway. UFCW 1518 retained Ms. Elliot last year to develop the recovery plan based on her research and data gathered by the Fight Back Action Team. Ms. Elliot made a similar presentation in November to 200 activists and stewards at the #MembersFirst bargaining conference.

Entitled Rebuilding Safeway in British Columbia, the recovery plan identifies opportunities for growth and financial improvement in many areas of in the operation of Safeway, including the customer loyalty program, private label penetration, computer automated ordering, store merchandising, all of which are aimed at regaining market share. Through mismanagement and ineptitude, Sobeys squandered two-thirds of Safeway’s market share since purchasing the company in 2013.

Mr. Ready then met with Sobeys on May 30. The Section 106 proceedings will continue, although no future dates have been set as yet.

Safeway store closure update: transfers now complete

The transfer process for UFCW 1518 members working in the 10 Safeway stores closing across the lower mainland and Mission was finally completed this week. On June 8, members in closure stores will receive their placement letters alerting them as to their new location.

The process was a frustrating one, acknowledged President Ivan Limpright, with members waiting for months to hear where they would be placed and how the transfer would affect their lives.

“Sobeys was very disorganized and we had many meetings where no progress was made because the company was ill prepared,” President Limpright said. “The uncertainty and confusion it caused our members is regrettable.”

Placing members in receiving stores by seniority and preference, as well as ensuring that accommodated members were not adversely impacted was a complex task, he added. “But I’m pleased to report that 80 percent of members from closure stores received their first or second choice for placement.”

Monica Staff, UFCW 1518 Director, oversaw the store transfers on behalf of UFCW 1518. If members have any questions or concerns regarding the placements, please contact the union office at 1-800-661-3708.

Voting on SOF agreement begins Monday

Ratification of the settlement agreement reached between UFCW 1518 and Overwaitea will begin Monday, with polling stations set up across the province.

The union bargaining committee unanimously recommended the agreement and wholeheartedly supports it.

Bargaining committee members, along with leadership and union representatives, were in Save-On-Foods stores today to distribute the settlement agreement and answer questions. They will meet with members throughout the weekend in order to prepare them for next week’s vote.

Members who have supplied the union with an active email address were emailed the settlement of agreement on Friday. If you did not receive a copy please email membersfirst@ufcw1518.com. Copies will also be provided at the ratification meetings.

To read the summary of the agreement, click here.

Click below for ratification meeting dates, times and locations:

Lower Mainland

Powell River

UPDATED: Rest of Province