Your Voice e-newsletter v14.102

The Fight Continues at Superstore

Group of hands

During the recent Superstore negotiations, we made several significant gains for our membership. Those gains included:

  • increases to benefits for full-time and part-time employees (including sick pay for part-timers), 
  • protocol on dealing with difficult customers,
  • placing more hours into stores and onto your schedules.

Listening to the members, it was clear that store hours was far and away the biggest issue in negotiations. Your union pursued many avenues to get those hours for you. Two avenues that paid off in particular were arguing for and winning new language in your union contract that restricts the number of vendors who can work on the floor and language that restricts the number of hours that management can spend performing union member duties.

Vendors are individuals from a company (for example Coke/Pepsi or Joe Fresh and beauty products) who may, from time to time, come into the store check, stock, and rotate their product. Prior to negotiations, these representatives were stocking store shelves, which is work that should be completed by UFCW 401 members. The result of this practice was that hours were being taken away from Superstore employees unnecessarily.

During negotiations, your union argued that this practice was unfair and needed to be changed. As a result, Superstore is now limited to ten (10) vendors who may come in and work their product without the assistance of a union member.

All other vendors are now required to have a union member working with them (on a one-to-one ratio) while they are in the store checking their product. This means that for every vendor representative that is present in the store, there should be at least one union member working with them at all times (I.e. 5 vendors would require 5 union members, one union member working with each vendor).

There are new restrictions for Supervisors, Managers, Specialists, and/or Merchandisers that are even more substantial.

Remember when your co-worker would call in sick and rather than calling someone else in or offering to extend your shift, your supervisor would just stay and work the shift themselves? Or rather than scheduling that extra person on a busy day your supervisor or store manager would work side by side with you, stocking shelves or slicing meat?

That will no longer happen.

Supervisors, Managers, Specialists, and/or Merchandisers are only allowed to work on the floor within their department or cashing to a maximum of four (4) hours per day. This new policy pertains to anyone who is NOT a union member.

Consequently, when your co-worker calls in sick or you’re short-staffed, your supervisor/manager can no longer “fill-in” if doing so pushes them over the four (4) hour maximum. Instead, your Supervisor or Manager is required to call another union member in or extend a union member’s shift to cover the shortfall. This change provides another means to stop the bleeding of union members’ hours to non-union staff and places more hours onto your schedules and your pay cheques.

While these changes might sound straight forward, things get complicated quickly when you’re dealing with Superstore – a repeat offender when it comes to violating the union contract. And, sadly, those violations never stopped occurring, even with the new agreement.

It’s not surprising that Superstore and their managers have chosen to ignore the language to which they have agreed. We’re still faced with a “catch me if you can” scenario. Superstore doesn’t have any real internal monitoring system to ensure these new restrictions are followed. It’s up to us to enforce the rules.

UFCW Local 401 spoke at length with Superstore officials at the bargaining table about our desire for a co-operative relationship and their responsibility to live up to the contract. For the first time, the union and the company agreed to a Commitment to Compliance clause.

The Commitment to Compliance outlines the company’s commitment to complying with all Articles of the Union Contract. The new Contract was ratified on October 9, 2013, but Superstore has yet to live up to its side of the bargain.

We all took a stand against Loblaw and Superstore to demand a fair contract and improvements in our workplaces. You walked a picket line in protest for three (3) days to ensure you got the deal you deserved. But the fight didn’t end when the picket lines went down and you went back to work. The days of sitting idly by are over; the fight is only beginning.

We can no longer just rely on Shop Stewards and Union Representatives to ensure that the rules of the union contract are enforced. We all need to participate and we need your help!

If you see a vendor working on the sales floor without a union member, let your Shop Steward of Union Representative know! If you see a Supervisor, Manager, Specialist, and/or Merchandiser performing the duties of a union member, find your Shop Steward and call your Union Representative as soon as possible!

We only have fourteen (14) days to file a grievance and without you acting as our eyes and ears in the stores, violations will continue to occur.

Despite all their talk, Superstore will not change voluntarily. We are going to have to force them to change. The fight continues at Superstore.

March for Missing and Murdered Women on February 14th

Large group of people

On February 14th, UFCW Canada activists will join thousands of other women, men and family members in marches and vigils across Canada to remember and honour missing and murdered women. The history of the February 14th Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women dates back to 1991, after an indigenous woman was brutally murdered on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. A march and vigil were created to call attention to the alarming number of women, especially those of Aboriginal descent, who have vanished from their communities.

Of the approximately 600 cases of indigenous women documented to have perished as a result of violence over the past two decades, the National Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) estimates that two-thirds of the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women occurred in B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

While upwards of 10,000 individuals and organizations, including UFCW Canada, endorsed a 2013 joint statement drafted by the NWAC calling for a National Public Inquiry into this issue, family members and friends of the victims remain ignored and frustrated by the Harper government’s lack of response and action. Indeed, in October 2013, a United Nations human rights investigation criticized the Harper government’s inaction regarding the cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Over the years, UFCW Canada activists and Local Unions have joined community activists at February 14th marches and vigils in a number of Canadian communities.

“We gather in support of our sisters who have been affected by gender-related violence in their communities. We walk to remember the women whose lives were taken, while their families continue to live in despair, anger and frustration. We join in the call for answers and meaningful justice through a national inquiry”, says Paul Meinema, National President of UFCW Canada.

“On February 14, our compassion must be rooted in action. When we walk in support of missing and murdered women, we proclaim that violence against women is unacceptable.”

For a list of some of the February 14th marches and vigils being held in various communities across Canada, click here.

G4S Security Guards Certification

For a number of weeks, UFCW Local 401 representatives have been reaching out to G4S security guards about how Alberta’s largest private sector union can help improve their lives. The response to our outreach has been overwhelming and has resulted in a substantial victory.

Guards came to us with stories that made our blood boil: poor living conditions, substandard wages, lack of overtime pay, frequent payroll errors, and unreasonable shift turnarounds are just a few of the concerns that we’ve heard about that have gone unaddressed and without apology.

We know that G4S guards deserve better and that UFCW Local 401 can help to address the issue in their workplace. Now G4S guards are ready to take the step towards creating change for the better!

Due to the amount of support our outreach uncovered, UFCW Local 401 has applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a certification vote so that G4S security guards at Buffalo Metis Catering and PTI can enjoy the union advantage.

But we’re not stopping there. G4S has guards at other locations like Albian Sands/Kearl are facing similar situations. We want to reach out to those guards and help to improve their working conditions as well.

If you know a security guard at AlbianSands/Kearl or one of G4S’ other locations, tell them to contact UFCW Local 401 confidentially at 1-888-GoUnion (1-888-468-6466) so that we can talk to them about securing better wages, fair treatment, and dignity and respect in their workplace.

Together, security guards are making change for the better at G4S and UFCW Local 401 is proud to stand with them throughout that process!

What Can the Union Do for You if the Business Goes Under?

Swiss Chalet sign

The Story of Two Swiss Chalet Restaurants in Edmonton

The decline or bankruptcy of a business is bad news for everyone, especially the business’s workers. However, even in those circumstances, a Union offers protection and help to ensure you receive what’s due to you as an employee.

Two Swiss Chalet franchises closed their doors in 2012 after many years of operation in Edmonton. Both workplaces were unionized with UFCW Local 401, and the Union was in the process of bargaining new collective agreements with the restaurants’ franchise owners. When the franchise owners decided to close, the Union remained active in helping employees calculate and ensure receipt of severance payments and make application to Service Canada to receive their eligible amounts when a business declared bankruptcy.

In particular, UFCW Representative, Shauna Robertson, worked tirelessly to meet with dozens of employees. Shauna reviewed their schedules, pay stubs and confusing government forms to ensure that everyone was able to realize as much financial protection as possible. Many of the Swiss Chalet workers were new Canadians who spoke English as a second language, making Shauna`s assistance to them even more critical. She also made sure that employees received a letter that enabled them to show future employers that the businesses’ closure was the reason for the termination, not because of anything the employee did.

The Union also engaged in discussions with the franchise owner, Cara Foods, to ensure that senior employees were recognized beyond the statutory minimum amounts set out in legislation. The Union and Cara Foods reached an agreement to resolve all outstanding disputes, many of which did not relate to the businesses’ closures. To its credit, Cara Foods engaged in the negotiations with the Union in a way that was respectful of employees’ long-standing contributions to the past operations of the Swiss Chalet restaurants.

UFCW Local 401 will always support the continuing operation of the enterprises in which its members earn their living. When that’s not possible, however, UFCW Local 401 continues to represent its members and help them transition into other gainful employment with some financial protection.