Directions Newsletter Vol. I No. 1
In this issue:
The recent step to “strengthen workplace democracy” by Mike Harris’s Ontario Tories – the so-called sunshine law revealing the pay of union leaders whose gross remuneration exceeds $100,000 per year – raised few eyebrows when its report was made public. Indeed, even the right-wing labour minister who pressed for the legislation admitted the salaries and benefits were generally lower than expected, earned by fewer union employees than anticipated, and probably well-earned.
It should come as no surprise that union leaders – who, by and large, work long and hard for the members who elect them – do not come close to the excessive payments made to business leaders whose role in life is to simply make money for shareholders.
Take for example last month’s “going-away present” made to retiring president of Loblaw Companies Ltd., Richard Currie, who received $10-million on top of his 2000 salary of $1.45-million, bonus of $1.25-million, and cashed stock options of $6.47-million. To top it off, Currie remains president of parent company George Weston Ltd., and will get another $10-million when he steps down from that position.
One industry analyst admits that’s “a lot of money, but I doubt shareholders are unhappy.” Certainly not prime shareholder Galen Weston, who himself collected more than $20-million in combined salary, bonus, and cashed stock options last year.
The analyst goes on to say Currie “made a profit for the shareholders and jobs for the employees.” True enough, when you look at it from that perspective. But what about the labours of thousands of Loblaws workers who have made jobs for the likes of Currie and Weston? Without the workers, corporate bosses would have no means of garnering huge payouts. Hugely profitable companies like Loblaws (see Facts on File, below) need to be reminded of this. Last year, Loblaw Companies Ltd. was named one of the Top 10 Mass Market Retailers – worldwide. It’s time to share the wealth with the workers whose efforts have truly earned it.
The publication you are reading, Directions, is the latest step by the UFCW Canada national office to provide local unions with current news and information. We will be publishing this bulletin on a biweekly basis, and mailing it directly to a growing list of UFCW Canada leaders and activists. It will also be made available on-line at ufcw.ca, and by e-mail for those who wish to receive it that way.
We plan to share as much news as possible, often without a lot of details, but with information on where you can follow-up for more background on the issues and events that are important to you. As always, we rely on your input and encourage your contributions. Please contact UFCW Canada Information Services staff to provide tips or information for future issues.
About 400 UFCW Canada activists – mainly from Québec – joined an estimated 60,000 international demonstrators in Québec on April 22, during the Second People’s Summit of the Americas. The peaceful protest was organized to fight against government meetings there to develop a hemisphere-wide free-trade zone. At the same time, UFCW Canada members on the west coast were part of a support “March at the Arch”, drawing about 5,000 people to the Canada-U.S. border at White Rock, south of Vancouver.
Two disputes involving 600 UFCW Canada Local 1518 members in greater Vancouver that began last summer ended in April with new collective agreements for both. About 200 Superior Poultry workers in Coquitlam won the first contract for which they went on strike, with an LRB-imposed contract awarding immediate wage increases plus $1,000 in bonus payments along with seniority rights as well as “justice and dignity” language.
Meanwhile, an eight-month lockout at Fletcher’s Fine Foods ended with a 67% approval of a mediator-recommended settlement that won several important issues. The new contract for 400 members provides a $1,000 signing bonus and a voluntary buyout, and held the line against the 40% rollbacks the company had sought. In addition to no wage concessions, they succeeded in killing proposed language docking them for bathroom breaks.
More: Tom Fawkes, Andy Neufeld, UFCW Canada Local 1518, www.ufcw1518.com
Telespectrum first contract imposed
As many as 240 call-centre workers at Telespectrum in Winnipeg will benefit from a first contract imposed by the Manitoba Labour Board on March 20. Highlights of the agreement include immediate wage increases ranging from $0.38 to $1.00 an hour, with further increases in six and 12 months, plus paid sick leave and an end to the company policy regarding “personal time”. Shift premiums have also been improved or added, and the employer will contribute to the UFCW Local 832 Training and Education Fund.
More: Don Keith, UFCW Canada Local 832, www.ufcw832.com
For the third time in the last two years, the non-union Lakeside Packers plant in Brooks AB has been forced to recall ground beef following reported cases of E.coli-associated illnesses in Saskatchewan linked with the product.
“If Lakeside management had any concern for the health of consumers and workers, they would welcome – not fight – UFCW Canada’s effort to organize this plant,” says UFCW Canada Local 401 President Doug O’Halloran. UFCW Canada national representative Shane Dawson, who has helped numerous former Lakeside workers apply for compensation, adds, “With Lakeside being so careless in its processing operations and quality checks, you can imagine what their labour practices are like.”
More: Doug O’Halloran, UFCW Canada Local 401; Shane Dawson, UFCW Canada western office
YIG contract nets P-T benefits
More than 400 Ontario UFCW-RWDSU members in Sudbury, Bracebridge, and Gravenhurst have won a new agreement at five Your Independent Grocer stores with an excellent benefits package that now includes part-timers. “I think it’s just wonderful for single moms, students, or part-timers who are working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job,” says RWDSU Director Robin McArthur. Top part-time rates under the agreement rise to $12.75 an hour, and full-time managers grow to $18.35/hour. Members at a closing store in Sudbury won the right to transfer to a newly-opening store, and the agreement includes bonuses of $500 and $250 for full-timers and part-timers respectively.
More: Blake Crothers, UFCW-RWDSU
The following changes to the UFCW Canada national staff have taken place since last reported:
To local union position: Julie Lauzon, Montréal (to Local 500R)
Hired: Louis Moglia, national representative, Montréal
Retired: Laurie Hall, national office support staff
Last year marked the most successful year in the history of Loblaw Companies Ltd. The company recorded its eighth straight year of record growth with every major banner improving its sales base and market position. The company performed well in all regions even though it discontinued its food service sales operation in Québec.
Did you know? President’s Choice products are marketed in select chains in Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, China-Hong Kong, Colombia, Israel, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States.