In this issue:
Through the years, many women have reached positions of great responsibility in UFCW Canada. There are women stewards and officers in locals across the country, and a number of women in senior local union staff positions as well. Curiously, early women activists broke ground mainly in smaller, industrial-based locals, where most members are traditionally men. Now, however, women members are reaching new territory, for the first time in senior positions in large locals in the retail sector, where the majority of members are women.
Women comprise at least 50% of our membership overall, and some recent announcements demonstrate clearly that not only are UFCW Canada women ready and willing to take on the responsibilities of leadership (as I’m sure they have been for a long time!), but that the opportunities to do so are real.
For the first time in UFCW Canada, a major local union has a woman as president, with Marie-Josée Lemieux elected to succeed the retiring Marcel Tremblay. She became president of the 7,000-member UFCW Canada Local 503, headquartered in Québec city, on April 27.
Sister Lemieux became a member of UFCW Canada in 1986 working in a Consumers Distributing store, and was on the bargaining committee there. She got involved in organizing other workers, and became a full-time servicing rep for the local in 1990. Marie-Josée has been heavily involved in negotiations and employment insurance work, and became secretary-treasurer of the local last fall.
The executive board of another major local union, the 16,000-member Local 401 in Alberta, has also just announced that six-year staff member Theresa Campbell, out of a Safeway store in Medicine Hat, will become secretary-treasurer of that local later this year on Jack McMorran’s retirement. And in the largest local in our union, Ontario’s 44,000-member Local 175, veteran staff rep Sharon Gall has been named a regional director, the first woman to reach that position. The former meat-wrapper from A&P in Hamilton now directs a staff of six.
These are positive advancements, made possible by the enormous dedication of these individual women, aided by the support and education of their sisters in UFCW Canada, as well as by the efforts of members, staff, and officers everywhere who recognize the need for our union’s leadership to truly reflect the membership. We can only look forward to continuing advancements.
On the same day it announced a 31% increase in year-end earnings per share, brewery giant Molson has confirmed plans to permanently close its Regina plant in March 2002, taking with it the jobs of 80 UFCW Canada members.
“We’re disappointed that Molson chose to close this plant. It’s part of the Regina community,” says UFCW Canada Director Michael Fraser. “Molson has protected its hockey franchise, the Montréal Canadiens, from the harsh realities of the global economy. Let’s hope they’ll be equally committed to the workers in its Regina brewery.”
UFCW Canada has begun negotiations with the company to reduce the impact of job loss as much as possible, seeking transfer guarantees, enhancements to early retirement provisions, good severance benefits, an early departure option, and an extension of benefits beyond March 2002.
More: Paul Meinema, UFCW Canada, Saskatoon
UFCW Canada Local 114P members at Power Packaging in Mississauga ON ratified a new contract on May 8, ending a strike of several weeks. The 91 members at the fruit juice plant will receive wage increases of 5-5-6-and-5%, plus language improvements. Power is a co-packager for labels such as Ocean Spray, Lipton, and Quaker.
More: Paul Magee, UFCW Canada national office
UFCW Canada Local 387W members at the Pepsi plant in Ottawa ratified a new contract on April 28, with a $2.00 per hour increase over the three-year agreement. The 133 members also won improvements in pension and other benefits.
More: Joe Tenn, UFCW Canada Local 387W
Several members at the Mérite warehouse (a produce facility in the Métro group) in Montréal have been suspended for failing to meet new engineered standards following an employer time-and-motion study. In the most recent case, where the worker was suspended for 20 days, the arbitration tribunal upheld the suspension but also established criteria that can be used to challenge such studies and imposed standards. UFCW Canada Local 501 President Yvon Bellemare says about 85% of warehouses now impose similar engineered standards.
More: Yvon Bellemare, UFCW Canada Local 501
UFCW Canada Local 864 is in the midst of a drive to organize as many as 1,600 workers in nine fishery plants owned by Polar Foods International. About a year ago, the local submitted an application to represent 50 Prince Edward Island workers at a plant in Summerside. It also brought unfair labour practice charges against the anti-union employer, including for terminating union supporters during the organizing drive. After 21 days of hearings, says UFCW Local 864 President Bruce Durno, the local is awaiting a ruling on both the hearings and the initial application. Two more applications – for 400 workers in two other plants – were made on May 7, 2001. An additional application for 50 workers is pending.
Polar Foods has eight plants in Prince Edward Island, and a ninth in Nova Scotia.
More: Bruce Durno, Ray Gallant, UFCW Canada Local 864
UFCW Canada Local 1400 has secured a first collective agreement for 85 members at Seven Oaks Inn in Regina. It includes an 8% wage increase over 2.5 years, maximized hours for part-timers, good seniority language for job postings, scheduling, layoffs, and recalls, and participation in the local’s dental plan with premiums fully paid by the employer. All workers at the hotel are unionized, including front desk, housekeeping, restaurants, banquets, bar, and off-licence beer sales.
More: Greg Eyre, UFCW Canada Local 1400
In an effort to make members more aware of their collective agreement rights, UFCW Canada Local 1977 launched its first issue of Grievance News in April, mailed to all members and posted on the local’s web site.
The number of payroll grievances filed by Zehrs stores workers – the largest component of Local 1977’s membership – has been on the rise since October 1998 when parent company Loblaws transferred payroll from an in-house department to a central office located in Winnipeg. Zehrs employees represent a small percentage of the massive payroll administered by the Westfair office, and discrepancies and errors have increased dramatically.
More: Rob Armbruster, UFCW Canada Local 1977, www.ufcwlocal1977.ca
On April 26, the Québec federation of labour-sponsored Fonds de solidarité (Solidarity Fund) announced a $10-million investment in Cleyn & Tinker, Canada’s only worsted wool manufacturer. The investment means expansion and modernization for the Huntingdon QC plant, creating 50 new jobs while protecting 700 existing ones, 500 of them members of UFCW Canada. The employer will also provide a new dollar-for-dollar matching RRSP to $250 annually.
More: Pierre Jean Olivier, UFCW Canada, Montréal
The following changes to the UFCW Canada national staff have been announced since the last report:
To local union position: Tom Hesse, Calgary (to Local 401, Executive Assistant to President, effective July 8)
Promoted: Shane Dawson, to Assistant to the Director, Western Region (effective July 8)