By Evan Johnston
Manitoba Safeway workers vote to strike
This week, Safeway workers from across Manitoba have given their bargaining team an overwhelming strike mandate.
UFCW 832, representing over 2,200 Safeway workers from Neepawa, Dauphin, Brandon, Thompson, and Winnipeg, have voted 98% in favour of taking strike action. Strike votes began February 26 in Brandon and concluded on March 4 with a meeting in Winnipeg.
“I have never seen a company with such disregard for its workers,” said local President Jeff Traeger. “The collective agreement expires in under two weeks. The company has only proposed conditions that gut the current collective agreement and only one other non-monetary item has been resolved in the five-hours of bargaining that has been accomplished so far.”
The current collective agreement expires March 17, and the local will be in a legal strike position as of March 18. You can follow any new bargaining updates on the local’s website here.
Ontario university workers on strike
It’s been a big week for university workers in Ontario as workers at York University in Toronto, and Carleton University in Ottawa, walked off the job Monday.
At York University, over 3,000 teaching assistant, graduate assistants, research assistants, and contract faculty went on strike after voting to reject the employer’s final offer on March 2. The executive committee, as well as and the bargaining teams for all 3 units, unanimously recommended rejection.
The main issues have to do with the employer’s ability to clawback funding for teaching assistants, and a proposal from the employer to reduce contract faculty conversions (that is, conversions from contract to tenure-track positions) from 8 to 2 per year. These concessions come after a year that saw almost 700 graduate assistantships eliminated by the employer. For a comprehensive list of the issues prepared by CUPE 3903, click here.
“It’s unconscionable that York has chosen to needlessly prolong this dispute by not coming and sitting down and actually doing the work necessary to resolve our outstanding issues. We cannot and will not continue to bargain with ourselves,” said CUPE 3903 Chairperson Devin Lefebvre. “Our bargaining team continues to be ready and available to resume negotiations as soon as there is a willing partner across the table.”
Meanwhile, at Carleton University in Ottawa, over 900 administrative, technical, and library workers went on strike to defend the language of their defined benefit pension plan in their collective agreement. The workers are represented by CUPE 2424, and voted 93% in favour of taking strike action.
Carleton University president Alastair Summerlee insists that they have no interest in changing the plan, but the local is demanding greater assurances than that — they want it in their contract.
“So what President Summerlee has been saying is that their pension plan is stable and well managed. To a large extent, we agree with that,” said CUPE 2424 President Jarrett Clark. “But we’re asking for assurances it will continue to be managed in the same way … to ensure that benefit cannot be reduced or eliminated. We’ve proposed that, and that has been rejected by the employer.”
The local’s pension plan has seen cuts over the last 15 years, including the elimination of an early retirement bridge, an increase to the penalty for retiring early, and removing the protection in the plan against post-retirement benefit reduction.
For an in-depth look at the pension fight at Carleton, see Rick Telfer’s article published last week on RankandFile.ca.
Tim Hortons workers organize!
Tim Hortons workers in Canora, Saskatchewan, won their fight to form a union this week after a drawn-out fight at the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. The Tims workers have organized with Workers United, which also represents workers at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg.
Workers United vice president, Vas Gunaratna, says that the employer, Amenity Health Care, has been fighting their attempts to organize since the drive began last year. In January, it was reported that Amenity filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the union and claimed that Workers United as ‘coercing’ Amenity employees.
As Arthur White-Crummey writes in the Regina Leader-Post, “The Canora Tim Hortons is owned by Amenity Health Care LP, which also owns a number of other businesses in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The company challenged the certification by arguing that two of the workers are actually supervisors.
The board disagreed, after hearing testimony the pair had little authority and were mainly tasked with the same food service work as other employees.”
The win in Canora comes while national attention is being paid to Tim Hortons’ labour practices. Following the minimum wage increase in Ontario, Tim Hortons franchise owners responded with cuts to wages and benefits, sparking a backlash to the brand all across Canada and an outpouring of support for workers.
The new Canora local will now begin the process of negotiating their first collective agreement.
Human rights complaint filed against Air Canada
The Air Canada Component of CUPE has filed a human rights violation complaint against Air Canada for systemic discrimination and harassment of flight attendants.
CUPE says Air Canada’s policies on uniforms and makeup are discriminatory towards female flight attendants on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and race. They also charge the onboard service managers (OBSMs) with creating a “toxic environment” by engaging in problematic behaviour toward workers and using a discriminatory assessment process.
“Our complaint states that Air Canada, through its policies, procedures and practices, fosters harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and this must stop now”, said CUPE’s Air Canada Component Vice-President Beth Mahan in their media release.
CUPE represents 8,500 flight attendants at Air Canada mainline and Rouge.