Olymel Members Bargaining Strong

Greetings, UFCW Local 401 members:

From November 16-27, 2020, our union bargaining committee met with Olymel management to negotiate a renewal of your collective agreement. We hope to secure a new contract for you before it expires on January 31, 2021, so that you can have another raise as soon as possible.

What are negotiations?

Being part of a union gives you the opportunity to have your voice heard and have your contract updated and improved. That little orange book must be renewed, so we are working hard to make the kinds of improvements that matter most to you, based on your responses to our survey and our on-going consultations with you through our union bargaining committee.

At the bargaining table, we have been working hard to convince Olymel to make improvements to your contract. Along with your union representative, Tony Evangelista, we have a number of your co-workers and union activists serving on our union bargaining committee. They are:

  • Johanne Alexander – Pork Cut
  • Amanda Bischler – Pork Cut
  • Alex Pastor – Trainer
  • Mohammed Kanu – Cooler
  • Lee Simms – Maintenance
  • Louise Mah – Kill Floor
  • Mario Carbajal – Kill Floor

Our main spokespeople at the bargaining table are our negotiators, Ricardo de Menezes (UFCW Director, Southern Alberta) and Larry Zima (UFCW Director, Northern Alberta).

We met for two weeks straight in November

Olymel management came to Red Deer from Quebec to negotiate an improved collective agreement over two weeks in late November.

There were a lot of long days. There was a COVID-19 outbreak declared at the plant during this time. While we were looking to bargain throughout this time, we also felt it was important to address the concerns related to this outbreak. This is the reason for the mass text that you received.

Olymel knows that the Red Deer plant is a VERY successful plant. There is hopefully going to be more success in the future, which should only spell a higher return for employees and we made that message clear to Olymel management. All of the overtime, new shifts, and hiring only shows that the pork industry has really benefited during this time. While other industries have taken a hard hit because of COVID-19, food production has seen a sharp increase in sales and production.

What did we accomplish?

There were many improvements that were made to your contract that don’t necessarily involve a wage increase. We call these “non-monetary,” and they are important to outline for you:

  • Respect and Dignity for employees in the workplace – not only do they recognize that employees should be treated with dignity and respect in ALL circumstances, but they should be hiring and keeping only supervisors and managers who recognize that as well
  • A stronger and clearer process to file complaints or “grievances” for unjust disciplines or unfairness at work – this gives clear timelines and committees to help you with any grievances that may affect you.
  • New leaves of absences that have been provided for – including strong language and help for employees who are victims of domestic violence in the workplace.
  • A lot more language in the agreement to improve your Union’s voice in the workplace – like more bulletin boards, better access to employees who need help, and especially during Covid-19, greater consultation with your Union on any changes in your workplace.

There is a lot more we’ve been working on that will involve money in your pocket, like an increase in a few of the premiums, jobs, and allowances as well. Keep in mind that none of the improvements will come into place until UFCW Local 401 members have voted on the renewal agreement.

What’s left?

While we hoped that we would have achieved a new agreement for you to vote upon already, we haven’t reached a deal with Olymel yet. WE are in the thick of bargaining now with the wages and benefits still left to negotiate. There are four very important items on the table that we are still working on. They are:

  • Annual raises – The company is offering between $.30 to $.45 cents per hour in each year of a new agreement. We are pushing for more because we think you deserve more!
  • The annual bonus – While only employees hired before 2016 are entitled to this benefit, this is important for many of our members. We have been fighting hard for all employees to get this benefit.
  • The length of the contract – The Company wants a seven-year-long contract.
  • Union Training and Education – The strength and very survival of our union rely on our ability to train members to be strong activists in the plant and provide services to our members.

We have more negotiation dates scheduled for December 17-19, 2020. When they do return to Red Deer, we expect that Olymel will put their appreciation for the work you do into a fair offer to improve your wages and benefits. Our union bargaining committee will keep pushing for them to do that. We will keep you updated!

In Solidarity,

Your UFCW Local 401 Union Bargaining Committee