Union wins big for Safeway members; Sobeys forced to pay $90K

UFCW 1518 members working at Safeway have had a tough year. In January, parent company Sobeys announced 10 store closures. The following month, Sobeys tabled a concessions-only set of proposals at the start of negotiations for the reopener of the collective agreement, which is five years into a 10-year deal.

But thanks to the hard work of union representatives, Sobeys had to pay out more than $90,000 in fines and settlements to members. “We have a collective agreement and we’ve been using it to ensure our members’ rights and interests are protected,” said Secretary-Treasurer Kim Novak. “In addition to the monetary wins, we won on compliance issues, meaning that Sobeys has to follow the collective agreement in areas where they’ve been ignoring it.”

Even as negotiations for the reopener stalled, the union filed grievance after grievance and worked hard to ensure members at closure stores were treated with respect, and that those who were eligible were offered severance or transfers. In May, President Limpright appealed to the Ministry of Labour to intervene after Sobeys failed to engage in meaningful negotiations. Referring to Section 106 of the BC Labour Relations Code, Minister Harry Bains appointed a Special Officer with the power to mediate, arbitrate and make binding orders. Unfortunately, Sobeys refused to move off their concessionary demands and the 106 proceedings continued through the summer and into the fall.

“We have no control over Sobeys’ actions or behaviour,” said Secretary-Treasurer  Novak. “While Sobeys was playing games and demanding deep concessions from our members to fix problems they created, we were doing what we do best: defending our members’ rights.”

Over the past six months, UFCW 1518 filed grievances and negotiated agreements that put more than $90,000 back in members’ pockets and ensured company compliance with the terms of the collective agreement. Here is a brief summary of some of those wins:

Compliance grievances

  • Filed a policy grievance to protect the work of pharmacy assistants, which was being done by pharmacists.
  • Filed several grievances for failure to post full time positions, which the company subsequently posted. Part time employees were moved to full time and have begun receiving accumulated time off (ATO).
  • Filed a group grievance regarding improper scheduling of ATO, specifically the failure of management to schedule ATO.

Pending compliance grievances

  • Filed a policy grievance to address the numerous part time employees working full time hours, yet the company is not posting these full time positions in accordance with the collective agreement. This grievance has been referred to expedited arbitration and the union is fighting for more full time positions.

Grievances with monetary awards

  • Filed a policy grievance to regarding violations of Key Personnel Stepdown as well as improper demotion.
  • Filed a policy grievance for violation of DTA protocol, seniority and hours of work, provisions and job posting provisions.
  • Actively enforcing the Clerks Work clause where salespersons have been caught doing bargaining unit work which has resulted in fines payable to the UFCW 1518 Pension Plan.
  • Filed a grievance for failure to provide correct sick credits to employees.

“The company is on notice,” Secretary-Treasurer Novak said. “We aren’t tolerating violations of the collective agreement. Our members deserve better.”