April 5th 2012
Question and Answers from Shoppers Drug-Mart
1. Union dues and probationary periods: How do they work and what do they mean to me in a newly unionized workplace?
UFCW Local 401’s Union dues generally start out at $7.25 per week. These dues vary between different Union contracts depending on different circumstances. UFCW Local 401 will not deduct any Union dues from you until you have voted on your Union contract. The Union does not believe that you should pay Union dues until the Union is working for you. At the end of the year you will be able to claim the Union dues you pay upon filing your income taxes. Before the Union deducts any Union dues, the Union will present the entire workforce with a copy of the Union contract. It will be in black and white for you to see what you will get for your Union dues. Then the Union will conduct a secret ballot vote on the contract; this is when workers can make an informed decision about what they will receive from the Union in exchange for their Union dues.
Local 401 is a large, powerful Union that negotiates increases to wages, benefits and working conditions. Local 401 President Douglas O’Halloran always tells potential Union members that “if we can’t get you something that is worth your Union dues, vote ‘no’ to the contract.” If the workers vote no to the Union contract then business continues as normal at your workplace. Workers have nothing to lose by joining Local 401 and seeing what Alberta’s largest private sector Union can do for them. For members like yourselves, there will be NO initiation fee. You will receive all of the protection that you expect from the largest private sector Union in Alberta; along with many other external benefits that we have to offer.
Workers like yourselves will not be affected by the probationary period, as you are already passed the probationary period, or you have signed a petition. For new workers that come into your workplace, they will pay Union dues from the date they were hired, and will also enjoy all the benefits that accompany a Union contract. At Superstore, for example, when a person gets hired they receive benefits such as, negotiated start rate, employer paid benefits, employer paid pension, respect and dignity in the workplace protection, scholarships, online and in class courses offered. Local 401 believes that you should know where your Union dues are going and how you can benefit from what is offered. Part-time members may also be eligible for the dues rebate program. For more information on how the rebate program works visit our website at: http://www.gounion.ca/aboutdues/rebate.cfm.
2. What will the pay scale be and what will the structure of future raises look like?
The raises at your workplace will be developed in two ways: the first is through proposals collected from the workers and the second is through negotiation with your employer. The Union cannot guarantee any amount that you will receive in the Union contract, however, we will continue to work, at no charge to you, to get the wages that you feel are sufficient for your workplace. Local 401 wants to make sure that you get more than you receive now, also looking toward the future to maintain better than the industry standard. Local 401 believes in guaranteed raises and they can be calculated in many different ways. Generally, we either negotiate raises based on an annual basis, or on a scale determined by hours worked, or a combination of both, so that even the part-time worker that doesn’t get a lot of hours can still receive raises as cost of living increases.
3. Is there a separate contract for management or are they covered by the same contract as us?
The Labour Relations Board is in control of who is included in the Union and who is not. There are strict guidelines that must be followed for the majority of these cases. UFCW Local 401 has some Union contracts, like Safeway for example, that allow some “department managers” to be in the Union, but they will not have the ability to hire and fire or discipline employees. There are other contracts, like Superstore, where all managers are exempt from Union membership and are able to have significant input in relation to hiring, firing and terminating of employment. Both the Union and the Employer can give reasons for why managers should be “in or out”, but in the end the Labour Relations Board will decide this matter.
4. What are the criteria for employees to be considered “full-time” – 40 hours? What if I work less than that now? Can I be reduced to part-time status?
The full-time status and hours surrounding that status will be determined by you and the workers in your workplace. For example, at Superstore they have negotiated their full-time week to be 37 hours. Also, being a full-time employee guarantees them no less than 37 hours per week. Everything above 37 hours would result in overtime rates of pay, even though Employment Standards states that overtime is only mandatory after 44 hours per week. The Union doesn’t have a minimum number of hours that has to be maintained to keep your status, but rather a guarantee of hours based on your status.
5. Will there be a minimum amount of hours a part-time worker must work and is my availability to work certain hours and shifts protected?
This will be something that you and your co-workers will have to decide: What will work the best for your workplace? Local 401 does not wish to change things that are currently working in the workplace. If the current scheduling system is working well and is meeting the needs of most employees, we do not wish to change that. The Union focuses more on guaranteeing your hours than forcing you to work hours you don’t want.
6. Often there is overlap between job duties. For example, merchandisers often have to cash. This can affect available hours for both cashiers and merchandisers. How can we protect those hours within each department?
It is hard to speculate what might happen exactly, but what we will do is look at what has happened and build your Union contract to provide protection for all the workers within each of the different work areas. The Union does promote job security in the workplace, however, and if there are others that are being affected due to cross training we could always create job classifications so that there will be no hours cut within your department. The Union has a very critical eye toward unnecessary over-hiring by employers. We will do all we can to ensure your scheduled hours are not “watered down” by influxes of new-hires in order to push senior employees out the door. Local 401 wants to make sure your workplace is fair to all employees.
7. What about our current 30% staff discount?
This is a program that has been set in place by the employer. However, there is nothing to prevent the employer from taking that perk away from you and your colleagues without a Union contract to protect it. In a unionized environment, we could negotiate that into your contract so the employer could not change it at whim. UFCW Local 401 does not wish to have benefits you currently enjoy in the workplace taken away. We are looking to make the workplace better by continuing to keep the perks you already receive.
8. What is the Union’s strike pay? Can employees find other employment if on strike?
You can make just as much money with the strike pay we offer as you would have been able to make in the store working. Although strikes have happened in the past with UFCW Local 401, we are proud to say that 96% of our contracts are achieved without a strike. The ability to strike is given to you through a secret ballot vote in the workplace and will be decided by a majority of those voting. When the membership decides to go on strike we initially offer $8.00/hr. That is offered for the first 3 weeks of the strike. After that the picket pay will go up to $10.00/hr. up to a maximum of what you would have earned had you been at work. This money is all TAX FREE and does not have to be claimed with Revenue Canada. If you do not wish to strike you should find work elsewhere, or do both, but we offer these options to simply ensure no one enters the store to work during a strike.
9. Right now we enjoy some flexibility of changing shifts or, for example, if the weather is bad and employees are late. Would being late constitute an infraction of the contract and could employees be written up? How many infractions and in what time period before they are either taken off the employee file or employment can be terminated?
Being late to work would not be an infraction of the Union contract, even if it is an infraction of a company policy that is already in place. We assert your employer must be reasonable when considering discipline and should not rely on a “cookie-cutter” formula. Situations out of our control happen in life and we believe your employer must continue to consider those facts. Currently, in your workplace, your employer can terminate you for violating terms of their company policies. When you have a Union there will be a process that must be followed before a termination can occur. The Union believes that you should be given due consideration, fair warning, and chances to improve for different types of discipline. You will not have to accept unjust discipline. For any type of discipline, you will be given free representation to make sure that the employer has evidence supporting the claim that is being made. Different types of discipline will have different scales for progressive discipline. Time and attendance disciplines will be separate from job performance disciplines and will require another scale. One of the benefits in the Superstore contract is that: “No reprimands shall remain on an employee’s personal file after two years nor shall they be used in any disciplinary action after that time.”
10. Can employees see the contract that other stores are under and will they be identical or can employees write location specific stipulations?
All contracts can be seen online because they are legal public documents. However, just because one location has certain provisions, doesn’t mean they are guaranteed or even appropriate for you. We like having contracts that suit you and your workplace, other contracts may have things that do not pertain to you. We take proposals from your workplace and use those to negotiate your contract with experienced negotiators. Local 401 will gladly show you other contacts across Canada to see what other Shoppers Drug-Marts are receiving, but because the wages and benefits are higher in Alberta, we feel that you would receive a greater benefit than is outlined in those contracts.
11. Would there be flexibility with regard to time off if I need more time than is allowed? Or would I have to resign and reapply? Does my length of service (seniority) factor in?
Local 401 believes the more service that you have provided the workplace the better perks you should receive. That could be things like vacation entitlement, or times of the day worked. However, we think that everyone should also have a “fair shot” and a reasonable balance for the employer and the other colleagues ought to be considered. This will also be something negotiated into the Union contract, but may not have to be if the membership is okay with the way things are now. At Superstore we have an article that reads: “Employees shall be considered for leaves of absence without pay, at anytime of the year, for severe personal or familial distress or other compassionate reasons.” This is something that you will be able to negotiate if it applies to you and your co-workers.
12. How would negotiated health benefits work in relation to cost, eligibility, and who administers them?
Benefits can be done in a number of ways and can be paid by both employer and employee. In the Superstore contract, for example, health benefit premiums are fully paid by the employer, as long as you maintain an average of 10 hours per week worked. This can be negotiated with the employer depending on the need for benefits in your workplace. The Superstore contract offers 100% prescription coverage, providing the employee purchases them from the Superstore pharmacy. This not only benefits the workers but the company as well because it encourages Superstore employees to shop within their own company.