UFCW 1518 puts members’ safety on a podium

Sobeys has halted the controversial Podium cash handling procedure after UFCW 1518 alerted WorksafeBC of the danger it posed to members.

Sobeys had been trialing Podium in four Safeway locations, causing great concern amongst members and the union. According to union representative Fred Scott, installing Podium put members’ lives at risk. “Podium lacks several key risk controls,” says Scott. “Our members were fearful for their physical well-being, because once again the employer demonstrated disregard for their safety.” Podium replaced the previous cash handling procedure, in which workers counted money in a secured area and cashiers could drop excess cash into a black box.

Armed robbery is a known high risk for workers in the retail industry and a serious concern for the union. Over decades, UFCW 1518 has worked together with members to achieve safe cash handling procedures and compulsory regulations to minimize the risk of violence in our stores. Our advocacy gained the implementation of locked cash drop boxes, low cash floats, enhanced office security, and improved worker education and training requirements. These safeguards were supported by some of the more effective violence prevention regulations in the country.

But the implementation of Podium reversed many of those protective measures and increased risk of harm to our members, causing a number of them to invoke their duty to refuse unsafe work. Because Podium created an unacceptable risk to our members and violated their right to a safe workplace, UFCW 1518 asked WorkSafeBC to intervene. We requested they order Sobeys to cease the Podium trial immediately. We also asked WorkSafeBC to enforce occupational health and safety regulations that prohibit Sobeys from downgrading security and safety, placing our members at undue risk of injury.

Upon inspection of the four stores, WorkSafeBC found Sobeys to be in violation of BC’s Occupational Health & Safety Regulations and the Workers Compensation Act. As a result of WorkSafeBC’s orders, Sobeys has re-installed black drop boxes at all four stores.

“Halting the Podium trial is a real victory – one we couldn’t have achieved without the activism of our Joint Committee Worker Representatives, stewards and cashiers,” Scott comments. “They sent a clear message to Sobeys: put workers’ safety on a podium. Make their health and well-being a priority over a risky cash handling procedure.”