My name is Richard Vermette and for 10 years I served as a WCB advocate for UFCW Local 401. Prior to this, I was employed at the Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers Compensation where I was a Hearing Chair for 9 of the 10 years I served.
By the time most of you read this I will be retired from UFCW Local 401 and I would like to leave some suggestions for our members with regards to WCB.
The number one suggestion I have is that every member has a family physician. If you do not have a family physician, please check the College of Physicians and Surgeons’ website, which lists physicians who are taking new patients.
Once you have a family physician, I would advise you to book and attend yearly checkups during which you make your Doctor aware of your Job Duties and the Physical Demands of your job.
For example: tell the doctor you are a Cashier and that your ring time is expected to exceed 30 items per minute. Don’t just tell him you’re a cashier
It is important that your Doctor gets to know you and what you do for a living. This will make a huge difference if you file a WCB claim and need your Doctor to speak on your behalf.
My next suggestion is to deal with Repetitive Strain Injuries when they happen. While these sorts of injuries might seem minor, dealing with them right away is very important. Let me explain a scenario that we have seen all too often:
A member is working full-time hours and having upper extremity problems such as hand, wrist, elbow, and/or shoulder pain. The member cuts back to part-time hours to address the pain, but the condition just keeps getting worse. The member then seeks medical attention and the treating physician reports a repetitive strain injury to WCB. WCB will has a medical advisor review the file and they state that part-time hours are insufficient to cause an injury. WCB then denies the claim.
We have lost appeals based on this exact scenario. The time to have dealt with this issue is when it happened. Modifying your work hours to address the injury only hurts your case with WCB. Further, when a member modifies their hours from full-time to part-time, they lose the security of full time employment and benefits. Addressing the injury right away should be the remedy sought, not modifying hours worked.
My final suggestion is around ensuring you report workplace injuries when they happen yourself. Reporting workplace injuries in Alberta is not a requirement for medical professionals or employers. We’ve often seen files where WCB and/or we have had to ask our members to fill in a Workers Report of Accident (C060). Our members sometimes tell us they assumed their employer was looking after the necessary reports. This can be a costly mistake; the form is called a Workers Report of Accident for a reason.
Many of our employers utilize Worker Compensation Specialists either directly or as contractors to monitor their WCB files. Some employers, such as Windley Ely, seem to contest every WCB claim and raise issues about how the claim was reported to WCB. As such, accurate and early reporting by workers themselves is very critical.
The members of UFCW Local 401 have been very fortunate to have Union Representatives assigned as WCB Advocates. Lorne Keister and Nathalie Doerth will carry on this practice after my departure.
Using the suggestions I have outlined here should help to ensure you don’t run into some of the common problems with WCB claims. However, the bottom line for our members is that if you do not understand something about a WCB claim, please call the union office to seek advice. After all, that’s what we’re here for!
UFCW Local 401 and Superstore have opposing views with regard to the benefits that full-time Superstore workers receive. The issue has been an ongoing and it remains unsettled, but has been sent to arbitration for the matter to be heard and determined how to proceed forward.
The Union believes that many full-time Superstore employees are unaware of:
Not having Superstore members’ benefits written into the body of their Union Contract is simply confusing. People often need access to their benefit package when they or someone in their household is unwell. Dealing with the stress of illness is not the time to be making things more challenging for workers who are just trying to cope. The process to get information about benefits should be streamlined to make it as easy as possible and ensure it does not cause workers any additional stress.
Full-time Superstore workers have reported that they are given the run around when asking Management and Human Resources for information and forms for their benefits. In one report, a member submitted a doctor’s note two months in advance to indicate that they were going to be having surgery with a set date. As the date approached, the member spoke to three different management/human resources people with Superstore about the short-term disability medical forms and was given three different answers.
After refusing to give up, the member was finally given a copy of the necessary forms. This situation is both ridiculous and entirely unacceptable. No Superstore employee should have to jump through hoops to gain access to the basic forms needed to utilize their benefits.
Clearly the current process is not working for our members and it does not work for the union when we are trying to assist in these matters. Without easy access to accurate and pertinent information, situations typically take much longer to resolve and are considerably more confusing and stressful for those trying to muddle through to a solution.
Superstore does not seem to consider this issue a priority. Rather than utilizing the Human Resource people present in each store, the Employer’s solution is to give members the Colleague Information Centre (CIC) desk phone number. While there are people in their store who have the information they seek, the member must instead call someone in Winnipeg who is only available to answer questions at certain times, Monday to Friday.
Until the arbitrator has provided a decision on the matter, we are asking all full-time Superstore members to call the CIC at 1-877-303-3013 and ask them to send you a written copy of your benefits and a list of eligible dependants (family members covered under your plan). It would greatly assist the Union if you would also contact the union office after you make the call (either by phone or email) to let us know about your experience.
Even more important, when you receive the package from CIC in the mail, let the union know what information you receive to ensure it is the correct information for your area.
On September 19 and 20, members from the Balwin Villa and Grand Manor home care facilities in Edmonton had the chance to voice their opinion on joining a union. A secret ballot vote on joining UFCW Local 401 was conducted by the Alberta Labour Relations Board with scrutineers present from both the company and the Union. Workers from Balwin Villa and Grand Manor turned out in numbers higher than expected to improve their working conditions.
Unfortunately, in the week prior to the vote the employer attempted to create confusion about when and where voting would take place. However, the union’s organizing team persisted in ensuring that the workers had all of the information they needed in order to participate in the vote. In fact, these issues actually assisted with uniting the workplace and resulted in a stronger overall vote.
“Workers at Balwin Villa and Grand Manor came together to talk about issues important to them and provide one another with crucial information about voting to make sure everyone could participate,” said Union Organizer Joe Irving. “To have such a high turnout and see such a positive message about changing the working conditions at these facilities is fantastic. The members’ voices were truly heard.”
The members voted in favour of joining UFCW Local 401 by 91% at both locations, which have approximately 180 employees combined.
Some reasons members expressed for joining the union included: lack of overtime, inability to achieve full-time status, and confusion about how to qualify for raises. All of these issues will be brought up in negotiations between the team selected by the new members and the employer.
Local 401 is excited to welcome our new members with open arms. Already there has been a great deal of support on our social media pages from the unions 30,000 other members who are proud to have workers at Balwin Villa and Grand Manor become part of Alberta’s largest private sector union.
Over the summer, the bargaining committee for UFCW Local 401 fought hard and spent many hours negotiating a new Union Contract with WOW Factor Desserts. Those long hours and hard bargaining sessions came to a great conclusion with a fair offer made by the company to Local 401 members at WOW Factor. The offer negotiated by the Local 401 bargaining committee was accepted by 85% of the union members.
The Contract contains improved language on overtime, statutory holidays, long and short-term disability. Additionally, two other pieces of language that will see stronger language for Union representation and a more streamlined grievance procedure are included in the new Contract.
Additionally, the Contract ensures that more money will go into the members’ pockets, with negotiated raises in every year of the Union Contract. A particularly big bonus the committee was able to negotiate was 2% retroactive pay all the way back January 1 of 2013. The raises achieved will also be added to the progression rates, meaning that not just top rate employees will realized immediate increases.
Congratulations to the union members at WOW Factor Desserts for showing what strength and solidarity can achieve in the bargaining process.