Just In Case… UFCW Local 401 Announces Strike Pay at Calgary Quest School!

Many Calgary Quest School employees are talking about a strike vote on August 25, 2015, before the school officially opens its doors to students for the year. They are angered by their employer’s lowball proposal in contract negotiations and are tired of being treated without any respect and dignity at work by their employer.

Some employees are playing “devil’s advocate” and are openly asking what strike pay would be if Quest goes on strike. We are happy to tell you, and we are happy to put it in writing.

Firstly, let us say you cannot be fired because of any union activity you take part in; this includes voting for a strike and participating in a strike. With the full support of UFCW Local 401, nine thousand Superstore employees went on strike against their employer in 2013, and they returned to work three (3) days later with their jobs intact.

Canadian workers have considerably more rights in this regard when compared to workers in the USA. The right to strike and to participate in a union are constitutionally protected rights in Canada, and also protected under the Alberta Labour Relations Code. This information is important and we are unapologetic for clearing up rumours about this matter, especially rumours that may have originated from Quest management in their anti-union efforts meant to deter workers from fighting for the protection and benefits that come with unionization.

Employees simply should not be made to feel the threat of job loss when talking about union matters. This pressure distorts what workers are fighting for and causes insecurity, as workers still have to support their families and pay their bills.

The union always works to prevent a strike. However, to address these concerns and to show the union’s support, UFCW Local 401 President Doug O’Halloran has authorized strike benefits for employees at Calgary Quest School. “The staff at Quest has asked for our help and they have important decisions to make,” said President O’Halloran. “Our union is committed to funding their efforts if they choose to fight for a fairer workplace and a good union contract.”

The following is the basic outline of strike pay/benefits provided to Calgary Quest employees in the event of a dispute:

  • The union will provide strikers with a “strike bib” to show our collective strength (or you can bring your own sign).
  • Strike pay is $20/ hour TAX-FREE. Choose a schedule to attend the picket line; if you picket for 40 hours per week (ex. 9-5 from Monday to Friday), you will be compensated $800 tax-free for that week. You will receive a paycheque from the union every week.
  • If you want to picket any extra hours over and above 40 hours, pay will be an additional $30/ hour TAX-FREE. So, if you were to work another 4 hours over and above our previous example, in that week you would make $920 tax-free. For example, you might choose to drop by on a Saturday and picket 4 extra hours.
  • Let’s say that you have 2 dependent children. In addition to the strike pay above, you are entitled to compensation of $50 TAX-FREE per dependent every week. In this example, the employee picketing 44 hours per week (40 hours at $20/hour and 4 hours at $30/hour) with 2 dependents would receive $1020 TAX-FREE per week!
  • The strike pay described applies to all employees in all classifications, regardless of length of service.
  • You will never be asked to repay or refund any of the strike compensation you receive from the union.
  • This strike pay is tax-free money, and there are no other payroll deductions. Most will be able to make no less than what they currently make after tax. To put it another way, you can make as much on strike as you did working. If you do not want to picket, you can stay home, or do something else and not collect any strike benefits.
  • You are entitled to get another job, and still return to work when the strike is over, even if you choose not to picket.
  • In addition to striking, you can get a new job or keep your part-time job.
  • We will work with you to develop a schedule that makes sense for your personal needs for any picketing duties you may assume.
  • If you have any particular economic hardships, we will assist you on a case-by-case basis. No one will be unable to pay their bills as you can make as much money picketing as you did working.
  • With the confidence that comes with economic security, you do not have to accept an unfair offer from your employer in order to maintain your job and your paycheque.
  • Did we mention that it was tax-free? Look at your paycheque now and find what you “net” and compare it to these strike pay figures on a weekly basis.
  • It does not matter if you are “pro-union” or not. Even if you have mixed feelings about this process but you still want to support the collective and your fellow workers, you can collect strike pay if you show up to picket.
  • We are hoping for nice weather in September and picketing will not be difficult. Walk around with your sign and hand leaflets and information out to passers-by in the community.
  • Support your co-workers on the bargaining committee. They are standing up for everyone! You will be the beneficiary of anything they bargain, and we need to be grateful for their courage and their determination!

If Quest staff pull together now and speak with one voice through solidarity, the chance of a strike will decrease as Quest management will be less tempted to delay this process any longer, and to keep their offensive lowball proposal to employees on the bargaining table. As a union, we understand our strength comes from our collective action; united we bargain, divided we beg!