Your Voice e-newsletter v16.104

Our Changing Times

UFCW Local 401 is subject to every kind of economic, industrial, and political change that happens daily in this province. The previous two years have seen more major changes than ever before.

Seldom is one able to predict with much accuracy any of these severe changes more than three to four years into the future. So with this burden, when we run into excessive drops or spikes in the economy, the knee jerk reaction from employers is always to either claw back or hold the line.

Your Union Leadership, Executive Board, Labour Relations Officers, and all staff are charged with the responsibility of trying to keep the members’ employment terms and conditions moving in a positive direction while ensuring not to take any employers down in the process. It can be a hard balancing act to say the least.

What we seem to overlook sometimes is that these factors have the same effect on your Union. Your Union must also respond to and deal with these economic, industrial, and political issues. There are many ways to achieve this and your Union has embarked on a number of strategies to try and get the membership more charged and active.

We have started out with basically a complete overhaul of how your Union staff performs their work by instilling a reporting structure for the many different areas that was not there before. We have established regular education and training sessions for all Union staff to help them help you the members more efficiently. We have rolled out a new process for member engagement to get our members to be more active, involved and supportive of our Union.

Most members do not see the steps that our Union takes to be solid and productive and might merely judge it based on their own interaction with the Union, if and when they might have one. The idea of all these changes is not to hide what we do, rather to promote the process in a transparent way so that the membership can take pride in belonging to UFCW Local 401. We tend to function in a vacuum and the time has come to be out there for all to see so that they know what the Union does for all members on a daily basis.

The changes that have been made over the last couple of years are really not a huge change to the President’s position of how our members are dealt with or to our Union beliefs. The changes are more structural, promoting member involvement and accountability. It should help develop a better-educated membership based on Union values, as well as a clear understanding of how their Union functions and is there to support them.

You need and deserve a Union that is up-to-date and involved in the well being of its membership. We encourage all members to contact their Senior Labour Relations Officers to find out the new ways that they can become more involved in our Union.

- Al Olinek, Union Negotiator

Important information to assist you in filing a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board

You have the right under the law to report any workplace accident or injury. No one can tell you NOT to file a claim. But many workers don’t realize their rights when it comes to this important element of workplace safety.

Below are some tips to assist you in ensuring you’re able to exercise your right to workplace safety and to file a claim with the WCB should a workplace injury occur.

  • Avoid seeking multiple medical advice from different physicians. This may complicate the processing of your claim.
  • You have the RIGHT to be treated by your own health care professional. This could be your family physician, chiropractor or dentist.
  • You make your initial choice of health care professional when you accept treatment after the initial or emergency treatment. You don’t have to participate in the OIS (Occupational Injury Services).
  • If you have any questions, you should always speak with your Union Representative first, or contact UFCW 401.

If an injury, gradual onset of pain and discomfort, or illness occur as a result of your work duties in and during the course of employment, then you need to file a claim with the WCB. If you file a claim and are having difficulties with the WCB or your employer your Senior Labour Relations Officer (Union Representative) is there to help you. Make sure you contact your Representative from the union or contact the appropriate union office to ask for help. A list of union offices can be found here:

In addition to your Senior Labour Relations Officer, UFCW Local 401 also employs two WCB Advocates to work with you to resolve all WCB related issues. The WCB Advocates can speak to WCB on your behalf to address challenges and to make sure that your file moves forward in a timely fashion.

Your union can send you information and authorization forms for you to sign that will allow the WCB Advocate to contact the WCB on your behalf. You should try to complete and sign the forms as soon as possible and return them to your Senior Labour Relations Officer so work on your claim can begin as soon as possible.

If you believe an injury, onset of pain or illness is work-related, below are some of the things you must do immediately:

  • Report the injury, pain, or illness to your employer
  • Ensure the employer understands that you believe the accident or injury occurred in the course of your employment.
  • Seek outside medical attention at an Emergency Room, Walk-In Clinic or family doctor. OUTSIDE medical attention means you don’t just report to the First Aid Centre or Company Nurse/Doctor at work.
  • Complete and return a Worker’s Report of Injury or any Worker’s Continuity Reports.
  • Tell the treating physician that your injury is work related.
  • Report your injury to your family doctor and have him/her complete a Physician’s First Report. Please note if you have missed work/loss time as a result of the injury, WCB will not provide benefits until you have been seen by a physician and a report has been submitted.
  • Have the employer complete an Employer’s Report of Injury/Disease. Employers must submit a report within 72 hours of being notified of your injury.
  • Inform a Union Steward, co-worker or other witnesses of your injury.
  • Keep copies of all forms, documents and communications relating to your claim.

If you have any problems filling out your Workers Report you should contact your Senior Labour Relations Officer and remember: when in doubt file! Don’t let your employer decide whether you will exercise your right for you.

- Nathalie Doerth, WCB Advocate

Education Promotes Member Engagement

The UFCW Local 401 Education and Communications department has been putting on education courses for a number of years. These courses range from our traditional Shop Steward and Health and Safety courses to the more recent Duty to Accommodate course.

The courses we provide allow our membership to become more acquainted with the Union and its policies and to become more informed in their own workplaces. Union members have benefited in a number of ways through Union education.

We have had members take an education course and then make a decision to become Shop Stewards and go on to serve their fellow members at work. These same members have then gone on to take the Shop Steward course that has afforded them the tools they need to serve their membership.

Through Union education, members have received the necessary training to be able to serve on their Joint Workplace Health and Safety Committees. Members have received pertinent knowledge about the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulations, and the Code that is required to be able to perform their duties in the workplace.

Members who have taken Public Speaking courses with UFCW Local 401 were once so terrified to speak in front of a group of people, have then gone on to present before whole conferences and conventions. These members will be able to use this skill set to help others in the workplace.

We have had members take the Cultural Comfort training session in order to gain a better understanding of the many different cultures and languages that are prevalent in our workplaces today. There have also been members who have taken the Duty to Accommodate course and have become ambassadors for Human Rights issues in their workplaces ensuring proper treatment for all members.

Those members who have taken the Bullying and Violence course have been able to return to their workplace and ensure that their employer has developed a violence prevention plan according to the Occupational Health and Safety Code. These members also learned about what violence is and how prevalent it is in our workplaces here in Alberta.

Additionally, the Note Taking course that is offered by UFCW Local 401 has given participants the skills needed to better represent and serve the members in the workplace, while the Collective Bargaining course has allowed members to confidently participate in the bargaining process to achieve stronger Union Contracts.

All of the courses mentioned above are made available to each of our members free of charge and are offered in most areas of the province. If you have not participated in any of the education offered, here is your opportunity to increase your skill set. These courses will not only benefit you but your place of work as well.

For information on upcoming educational opportunities please visit our website at and see how you can get involved today. You can also speak with your Senior Labour Relations Officer or Shop Steward to learn about upcoming educational opportunities in your city.

- Cam Sherk, Communications and Education Representative

How Protected are Non-Unionized Workers in Alberta?

When most workers have an issue with their employer they say, “I’ll just call the Labour Board and see what they have to say about this.” Well, the Alberta Labour Relations Board may not always be able to assist with their case and here is why: the Labour Relations Board only deals with unionized workplaces.

If you call the Labour Board, an automated message will ask you whether or not you are unionized, if you are not unionized they provide the number to Employment Standards.

The Employment Standards Act is a protected set of labour laws that the government has determined to be the minimum protections for Albertans at work today. It is worth noting that these laws have not been changed significantly in decades. It is not until an employee is unionized, or is in the process of unionization, that all or a part of the Labour Relations Code applies to them.

Let’s take a look at the legal protection non-unionized Albertans currently have at work.

1.) Bereavement Leave:

In Alberta, employees are not entitled to any days off when a loved one dies. The unfortunate part of this is that employees do not typically find this out until it is too late. In all other Canadian jurisdictions, employees have the right to time off to properly grieve their loss.

In most Union Contracts in Alberta, this leave has to be negotiated with the employer to ensure that employees have the ability to receive Bereavement Leave. During negotiations, employers in Alberta cannot simply state that employees can rely on existing provincial legislation, because there is simply no legislation in place.


2.) Conducting a Vote to Become Unionized:

Employees in Alberta that show an interest in becoming unionized are protected under the laws of the Labour Relations Code. Is the current protection offered under the Code enough as it stands?

Other jurisdictions in Canada have different procedures when it comes to the process of unionizing a workplace. These procedures often include a set of specific timelines that must be followed by all parties.

For example, Labour Relations Boards in other Canadian provinces would require that a vote to become a union certified workplace must be completed within a set number of days from when the application to unionize was originally put forward to the Labour Board. This is compared to Alberta where the language in the Code states:

34(3)      The Board shall conduct any representation vote and shall complete its inquiries into and consideration of an application for certification as soon as possible.

To the average person, the legal language in the Code might sound fair and reasonable, but it is when this language is put into practice that we find it is far from being fair and reasonable for workers in Alberta.

In practice, this language allows one official at the Labour Relations Board to have sole discretion when it comes to the process and the timeline to unionize.

The timing of the vote has a direct correlation on when the official “Board Officer’s Report” is due. In other words, the further away the vote is, the longer the Board has to submit their official report and decision on the matter.

If we look at other jurisdictions like British Columbia, the certification vote must be conducted within 10 days of the original application date. This short timeline allows for workers to be better protected from their employers who might try and bust up the union support before a certification vote can take place.

In contrast, we find in Alberta it is not uncommon to have a vote date scheduled two or maybe even three weeks after the application date. During this sensitive waiting period in between the application date and certification vote, it is not uncommon for employees to be intimidated, harassed, or even terminated by their employer in an effort to change the possible outcome of the vote.

For these reasons, UFCW Local 401 and other labour movement allies like the Alberta Federation of Labour are proposing labour law changes to the Government of Alberta.

The current provincial laws have significantly impacted the rights of workers in Alberta under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Act for far too long. Provincial laws must be changed so the average Albertan can have the right to choose a union like UFCW Local 401 without facing repercussions from their employer.

- Joe Irving, Union Organizer