Your Voice e-newsletter v15.103

Tentative Agreement Reached With Safeway-Sobeys!

Safeway Sobeys Bargaining Updates

We are pleased to announce that the Safeway Negotiating Committee reached a tentative agreement with the company at 11:00pm on Thursday, February 12th, 2015.

The negotiation process is rarely easy and it has been a long ten months for Safeway members as we sought to work with a new employer on reaching a fair deal. We would like to thank the members along with the members of the negotiating committee for their patience and perseverance during this period. Together, we have been able to weather the storm and come out the other side stronger than ever.

Voting on the tentative agreement will take place in the first two weeks of March. Posters with the locations, dates, and times of the meetings and votes will be posted in stores once the venues have been finalized. These posters will go up no later than Friday, February 20th, 2015.

Additionally, we will be posting the tentative agreement on which you will be voting, on our new website by Thursday, February 26th, 2015.

It is extremely important that all Safeway members come out to vote as this is your contract so please make your vote count!!!!

The meetings will provide an opportunity for your Union Representatives and members of the negotiating committee to go over every aspect of its contents with you in detail. Union Representatives and negotiating committee members will be available to Safeway members throughout the meeting days to discuss the tentative agreement and answer questions so you can make an informed vote.

Thank you again to Safeway members for their patience and strength throughout this process. We look forward to seeing you at the meetings and votes.

- Safeway Negotiating Committee

Workers at Sierra Spring Sobeys Liquor To Join the Union!

Sobeys Sierra Springs Airdrie Liquor Store employees to join the union.

Sobeys’ recent purchase of the Safeway banner means that the company will now negotiate with UFCW Local 401 in the process of taking over the current contracts for Safeway’s retail and liquor store locations. As this process has unfolded, UFCW Local 401 has been receiving a great deal of interest from workers at these stores who want to know about the benefits and protection a union contract can offer them at their workplace.

One such interested workplace was the Airdrie Sierra Springs Sobeys Liquor Store, the first Sobeys liquor store in the province of Alberta. On February 2, 2015, UFCW Local 401 made an application for certification at the location when members from the store contacted the union about implementing a fair union contract at their workplace.

Workers called the union’s confidential toll free number to get more information about how the process to join a union and get a union contract works. This initial contact resulted in a meeting between the workers and Local 401 Union Organizer Joe Irving. Some of the concerns brought to the union by workers at this meeting included: wages, benefits, scheduling, and a lack of association and communication between the management and employees.

“Employees have been slowly programmed to believe they are lucky to have a job with any organization and so should not bring attention to unfair practices or bad working conditions,” Irving said. “This is what our union is working to change, as I believe workers should be rewarded fairly for their hard work and dedication to the job. Employees like to know they are appreciated for showing up on time and doing everything they can for the business to succeed,” Irving said.

The Airdrie Sobeys liquor store employees have proven their determination to the Alberta Labour Relations Board to gain union representation at their workplace and will have their vote within approximately ten days. In this vote, members will express their legal right to join a union. After the vote, the negotiation process will begin with Sobeys wherein workers will have the full support and resources of UFCW Local 401 in gaining a fair union contract.

“As we negotiate Sobeys contracts, the union will look to win negotiated benefits for members achieved under the Safeway Liquor Store contracts, these include an equal wage scale, benefits after ten hours per week, an employer paid pension plan, as well as a process for progressive discipline,” UFCW Local 401 Negotiator Al Olinek said.

Ultimately, workers at the Sierra Springs location had the opportunity to look at other unionized locations and see the direct benefits bringing a union to their workplace could provide. They also saw and understood the collective bargaining power that comes with joining a union like Local 401. The union’s efforts at this store have resulted in an upswing of interest from members working at other liquor stores owned by Sobeys. These workers are now contacting Local 401 about the process of joining the union and getting a fair union contract. There are many other locations in the province that do not yet have a union contract and that will benefit from getting in contact with Local 401 to learn more about the Union Advantage, as the brave workers in Airdrie did.

To get in contact with a UFCW Local 401 Union Organizer, please call 1-877-GO-UNION. All calls are confidential.

- Joe Irving

A Day in the Life of a New Rep

A Day in the Life of a New Rep.

My name is Jeff Ible and I represent roughly one thousand members from across a variety of different workplaces and industries in the city of Calgary as a Union Representative for Local 401. My route is very diverse and there is never a shortage of concerns that need to be addressed.

In writing this article, I’d like to talk about a few challenges that I have dealt with recently, some of which touch on important social issues. I would also like to share some of the fantastic success stories that I am proud to say I have been a part of.

In terms of challenges, I have unfortunately encountered quite a number of situations involving workplace harassment and bullying lately. This topic gets a lot of attention already, however, I’d still like to talk about it because it happens so often and because it covers a much larger group of other important issues.

For instance, pursuing harassment complaints involves gathering statements and testimony. This task never is easy, and it becomes even more difficult when English isn’t the first language of the workers involved. It is also often the case that people are less likely to come forward and talk to their union if they’re from a group in society that has traditionally been either marginalized or disenfranchised.

In terms of combatting these problems, I think it is important for unions to continue to pursue things such as translation rights in Union Contracts and to push for greater access to ESL training for union members. Measures such as these would go a long way towards empowering a large number of workers and making the union more effective.

However, just as there are many barriers that still exist in the workplace, such as language and gender, I have discovered that, sometimes, these barriers are just obstacles that can be overcome.

In one recent case, I represented a worker who was the victim of on-going harassment from their manager. A big part of the intimidation that this person felt came from the fact that they couldn’t communicate in English as well as their manager. It definitely took more effort and patience, but in the end, the member was able to get their story out, confront their bully and achieve a more positive working environment for everyone in their department.

A few of my other notable wins have resulted in money going into people’s pockets and disciplines coming off of their files. For example, unjust suspensions of two union members have been removed and these folks have been paid-out for all of their lost wages. No grievances needed to be filed and it all started with these members asserting their rights in the most basic way, by picking up the phone and making a call to their Union Representative.

I am also pleased to say that I just worked out a resolve to two grievances with Superstore, which resulted in four Host and Maintenance employees receiving a total settlement of nearly $800.00. Additionally, a number of Junior vs Senior scheduling violations with Superstore have been settled, worth about $700.00 for ten employees. To top it all off, over $2000.00 was earned for the union’s scholarship fund by uncovering Failure to Post violations in the Superstore schedule, this money will be awarded in the future to members who apply for union scholarships.

While it can be difficult at times to stay on top of all of the scheduling issues at places like Superstore and all of the situations involving bullying in the workplace, the reward is definitely worth the effort. I’ve found that there is always power where is will and desire. Just as there is always a challenge, there is always the opportunity for success!

- Jeff Ible

What Inspired Me To Become Active In A Union

What Inspired Me To Become Active In A Union

My name is Joe and I work for UFCW Local 401 as a Union Representative. Before becoming a Union Representative, I worked for twenty years as a retail meat cutter, starting out in Ottawa and working a variety of union and non-union jobs.

Back then, I did not mind being in the union. I worked hard, keeping my nose clean, so to speak, and tried to keep food on the table for my family by maintaining a low profile at work to stay out of trouble. However, my low profile meant I was not an active member or very involved in the union.

Then one day, I called in sick to work and, if you can believe it, that simple thing changed everything. The store manager called me at home while I sick and tried to make me feel guilty by asking me a long list of questions that insinuated I was not as sick as I had claimed to be. Since I was a worker who was dedicated to my work and always stayed out of trouble, this bullying by my manager insulted me and made me think that my job was not as secure as I thought it was.

When I felt better, I returned to work and complained to my co-workers of the treatment that I had experienced. One of my co-workers suggested that I talk to my Shop Steward about what happened with the manager. I was completely unaware of the union process, or if they could even help me in this case, but was disrespected enough by the store manager’s actions to proceed anyway.

I explained what happened to my Shop Steward and though I was not optimistic for any tangible results, I still did my best to give my Steward all the details about the incident. My Steward met with the store manager, and surprisingly, a few hours after the meeting, the store manager came down to speak with me in person and apologized for his behaviour. We had a relationship of newfound respect from that day forward at work.

As a result, I realized that my union could make real change in my workplace and was there to back me up all the time and not just when it came to increasing my hourly pay while negotiating our next union contract. I started becoming active in my union and joined the bargaining committee where I was given the opportunity to understand more about the issues. It allowed me to change and improve things that mattered most to me at work like the working conditions, level of respect and job security of my fellow union members. In 1996, I moved to Calgary and after a few short months, I found myself at another union job and this time on a picket line with Canada Safeway. One of the hot issues was job security and the ratio of full-time versus part-time workers. My union educated us on the issues and I voted to go on strike and walk the line. Through my past union experience, I understood I had the power, through my local union and fellow union members, to stand up to my employer and say no to a bad contract offer.

Was it hard? Yes. Did we suffer? Absolutely! Was it worth it? You bet! I would do it again in a heartbeat because we did it together and in the end, we achieved a fair union contract that we were willing to accept which allowed us to leave the picket line and go back to work with our heads held up high.

Since becoming a Union Representative for Local 401, I have had the honour of walking many picket lines, both our own and in solidarity with other unions. I was the Representative assigned to monitor the picket lines at the Forest Lawn Sobeys, Old Dutch foods and more recently, assisting with the Superstore strike.

The message I gave to these brave striker’s is always the same message I give on the line, which is that by standing up for your rights as a Canadian worker, you are showing people power at its finest. I am always honoured to be part of that kind of demonstration that shows employers they must treat workers with respect and dignity, or suffer the consequences.

I am currently on the Safeway bargaining committee and soon it will be Safeway workers’ turn to decide what to do with an unfair contract offer from their employer. At the time of writing this article, Safeway still has concessionary proposals on the table in bargaining that would take jobs out of the union by allowing outside vendors to do the work currently performed by union members thereby decimating union jobs at Safeway. These kinds of concessionary proposals by the employer are unacceptable and I remain confident that one way or another, we will achieve a fair union contract for Safeway workers.

With the support of their union, whether it’s at the bargaining table, or on the picket line, Safeway workers will show they are strong and united when the time comes to vote on Safeway’s final contract offer. I know Safeway workers will stand up for one another at the voting booth when they cast their ballots and, if necessary, united in sending Safeway a strong message on the picket line as we tell the company exactly what we think of its concessionary proposals to cut union jobs.

In my years of experience at UFCW Local 401, we have never gone looking for a strike. I can honestly say that we do everything in our power to achieve a fair union contract at the bargaining table stage and only use a strike as a last resort, though sometimes employers give you no choice and the picket line can be your best line of defence.

As a Safeway bargaining committee member, I see all the union’s effort to get a deal at the table that our members deserve and will vote to accept. However, if we are unable, it will be an honour and a privilege to once more stand up for the rights of workers and walk the line in the fight for fairness at work.

- Joe Attwood