The highest wage increases in over 20 years, better work-life balance through flexible scheduling, and significant pension improvements are just some features of the deal.
Five months of bargaining with Save-On-Foods and four days of polling have ended in a new collective agreement for UFCW 1518 members, who won improvements to wages, flexibility in scheduling for workers, pension improvements, and improved job security.
On Thursday, June 29, the workers struck a tentative deal with Save-On-Foods. With an opportunity for all members to vote online over four days, the results were in on Saturday, July 15. Their ratification vote confirmed that members were in favour of the five-year agreement, which includes a critical wage reopener in 2026.
“Our bargaining committee has been giving their all since February,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “By pushing hard at the bargaining table and engaging members in stores, we’ve raised the bar for the grocery industry in B.C.”
The agreement, which took effect on Sunday, July 16, boasts a 12% or higher wage increases for top-rate staff and a shorter progression to top rate on every pay scale in the contract – including increases of over 17% in year one for many working their way up the scale.
Recruitment and retention have been serious issues at the stores, negatively affecting everyone’s mental health and workloads. Solutions to this ongoing issue include a compressed wage scale so that staff can move up the pay scale faster, accruing higher raises more frequently, and more opportunities for full-time hours and protections, which were difficult for new workers to achieve before.
In addition to wage increases, the agreement brought several improvements to Save-On members’ work-life balance. “This round of bargaining was about more than just money,” Novak says. “It was also about making members’ actual workdays more fulfilling, fair, and reflective of the communities where they work.”
Of note, the agreement includes changes that will give workers more power over their schedules, including fewer last-minute changes by the employer and the ability for staff to restrict their availability to certain days and times up to 32 hours. The deal will also introduce a 4-day workweek pilot project, which will be instituted at five stores to start.
“Our members made it very clear that they need a more flexible agreement that better reflects their lifestyles,” says Novak. “The fact that we secured a shorter agreement also means that we can keep the contract language modern and attuned to the shifting needs and demographics of our diverse membership.”
Save-On-Foods now has an industry-leading contract in the grocery sector in B.C.
“The growth and expansion of Save-On-Foods and their success relies on the hard work of our members,” says Novak. “Our new agreement is an industry-leading contract that recognizes the work of grocery workers across the province. We encourage other employers in the retail industry to take note.”
Save-On-Foods workers can learn more about the process that went into the new collective agreement at ufcw1518.com/sof-bargaining. Grocery workers who are interested in how they can join a union and gain power at work can check out ufcw1518.com/join.