Members at the Sointula Co-op gain a new store and a better contract

With a 100 percent YES vote, UFCW 1518 members at the Sointula Co-op on Malcolm Island ratified a new collective agreement last month.

The Sointula Co-op is the oldest unionized co-op in Canada and is an essential part of the Sointula community. This latest round of bargaining dovetailed with something workers had been advocating for years: building a new store in place of the current one, which is over 100 years old. This win also presented a challenge during bargaining: making sure members didn’t end up paying the price of this necessary investment.

“We needed a new store badly! Our building was falling down,” comments Monty Hals, a long-serving shop steward and bargaining committee member. Hals and her 16 co-workers were well-aware of the financial pressure faced by the company. That’s why the bargaining committee took a cooperative approach to ensure the new collective agreement included improvements for members as well as a new store

“The employer came to the table thinking the new store should take priority over our members,” asserts union representative Ashley Campbell. “We argued that it was our members who had dedicated their life to this co-op, who had kept it standing all these years. The employer needed to acknowledge that and I’m pleased to say they did!”

The three-year contract features a higher wage increase than previous contracts, as well as domestic violence leave provisions, joint labour management committee meeting language and no major concessions. The employer committed to build the much needed new store in mid-2020.

Both Hals and Campbell are encouraged by the positive shift in the union’s relationship with the employer. “This round of bargaining went smoother and was more laid back,” comments Hals. “We can work together now,” adds Campbell. “We worked very collaboratively this time and felt the employer was finally recognizing members. A positive bargaining relationship is good for our members.”