Saskatoon Co-op Strike

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epaulo13 epaulo13's picture
Saskatoon Co-op Strike

The Saskatoon Co-op strike has been on since November 1 with strikers fighting against an increasingly ugly employer that wants a two-tier contract that would sell out all future hires.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Co-op labour dispute a struggle worth supporting

If you have not been following the strike by retail Co-op workers throughout Saskatchewan, you should be.

The struggle between striking workers, their union (UFCW Local 1400), and the demand for a two-tier wage structure by Co-op management explains a great deal about the foundations of our politics and economy here in Saskatchewan these days.

After two years without a contract, members of the UFCW Local 1400 went on legal strike against their employer, Saskatoon Co-op. Saskatoon Co-op is the retailer for Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL), a massive company that reported $1 billion in profit for 2018.

At the centre of the bargaining impasse has been the union’s refusal to accept a two-tier wage agreement. The wage system proposed by management would cap the maximum hourly earnings for new hires, effectively paying future workers less than existing ones. Co-op management proposed a sliding wage scale of inequity to the union, paying new hires on average $2.64/hour less than existing employees, with the highest gap being $4.36/hour while clerks and cashiers would see a wage discrepancy of $3.57/hour....

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

The scab, his mom, and the soul of the Co-op

On February 8, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix wrote a feature on Keesan Corey, a 19-year old business student and strikebreaker at the Saskatoon Co-op. Hundreds of UFCW Local 1400 members have been on strike at the Saskatoon Co-op for over 3 months since November 1. They’re fighting a two-tiered wage system that would see new hires earn less. Keesan is quoted as saying, “Picketing for the few days I did, I saw more and more that the union’s values didn’t align with what the company is trying to get at,” and ““It wasn’t right to me; it didn’t feel right at all.”

What the Star-Phoenix article fails to mention is that Keesan is the son of Shannan Corey, Director of Total Rewards at the Federated Co-operatives Limited. In an article for TimeWise Magazine, Corey names her son Keesan and says:

“I’m very proud to say my 18-year-old son works for Saskatoon Co-op part-time, so he’s seeing the co-operative model from a different and new perspective…So that’s been a good experience for him.”

quote:

The Board of Directors vs the Co-op membership

Many Co-op members however, feel that the Co-op’s Board of Directors is betraying those values by proposing a two-tiered system and allowing the strike to continue for so long.In November, 474 people signed a petition to hold a special meeting to instigate a vote to replace the Co-op Board of Directors. The petition was coordinated by Craig Thebaud, spokesperson for a group called the Saskatoon Co-op members for the Fair Treatment of Workers, which currently has 786 “likes” on its Facebook page. The minimum number of signatures needed to instigate a vote is 300.

The petition was submitted in November but rejected by the Co-op’s Board of Directors. Thebaud then sought an order at the Court of Queen’s Bench on January 3, 2019 to make the Co-op comply with the petition, but the court ruled against it on January 14. Thebaud submitted an appeal Friday, February 8. He says Co-op members are also submitting proposals to remove the board at the Co-op’s Annual General Meeting, should his court appeal to call a special meeting not be granted.

“Members continue to be very upset with what the Co-op’s been doing,” Thebaud told RankandFile.ca, “From looking at the Co-op’s parking lots, they remain very empty so members are continuing to express their displeasure by not shopping a the Co-op.”

Unionist

Are BC and Québec still the only provinces that have anti-scab legislation? Shame on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDPs for having squandered decades in power without lifting a finger to help avert these kinds of assaults on workers. I'm sending virtual waves of solidarity to the striking Co-op workers. At a time when so many unions negotiate two-tier wages, benefits, pensions as an easy way out of tough times, everyone should be proud that the workers are standing firm. Thanks for the reports, epaulo!

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i feel the same re two-tier wages which is why i thought it should have it's own thread. it's an important struggle. they seem to have the public/members on side.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Unionist wrote:

Are BC and Québec still the only provinces that have anti-scab legislation? Shame on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDPs for having squandered decades in power without lifting a finger to help avert these kinds of assaults on workers. I'm sending virtual waves of solidarity to the striking Co-op workers. At a time when so many unions negotiate two-tier wages, benefits, pensions as an easy way out of tough times, everyone should be proud that the workers are standing firm. Thanks for the reports, epaulo!

What he said.

Unionist

Oh by the way - did you know that two-tier wages (i.e. different wages based solely on date of hire) have been unlawful in Québec since 1998?

And that last summer, the same principle was expanded to ban two-tier pensions and benefits?

So many of these gains don't get reported in the rest of Canada, let alone copied. We need to do a better job.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Unionist wrote:

Oh by the way - did you know that two-tier wages (i.e. different wages based solely on date of hire) have been unlawful in Québec since 1998?

And that last summer, the same principle was expanded to ban two-tier pensions and benefits?

So many of these gains don't get reported in the rest of Canada, let alone copied. We need to do a better job.

I did not know all those facts.  Of course the corporate media does not report on its masters' loses.

WWWTT

Yes kropotkin this is a good thread! epaulo posts s lot of stuff about the struggles of labour around the world and he deserves a big thank you! Unionist to. 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Unfortunately this is not the first time that coop boards have gone to war with their employees but this is beyond the pale.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Saskatoon Co-op members holding strong as community shows full support

Striking UFCW Local 1400 members at Saskatoon Co-op are holding strong on the picket line thanks to an outpouring of support from the Saskatoon community. Members of the community are speaking out and showing their solidarity with the Co-op members, who have been fighting for a fair contract since November 2018.

Across Saskatoon, teachers, concerned citizens, business owners, and Co-op members are standing strong with workers at the Co-op, and are calling on the company to negotiate a reasonable collective agreement that provides fair pay to all employees.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Dear Grant,

Roses are red
Violets are blue
The weather is cold
Give them one tier, not two

Aristotleded24

epaulo13 wrote:
At the centre of the bargaining impasse has been the union’s refusal to accept a two-tier wage agreement. The wage system proposed by management would cap the maximum hourly earnings for new hires, effectively paying future workers less than existing ones. Co-op management proposed a sliding wage scale of inequity to the union, paying new hires on average $2.64/hour less than existing employees, with the highest gap being $4.36/hour while clerks and cashiers would see a wage discrepancy of $3.57/hour....

Good for the union. I've worked under 2-tiered collective agreements, and that doesn't build faith and confidence in the union in new members. Under no circumstances should the union accept this, and the board of directors needs to withdraw that demand immediately.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Aristotleded24 wrote:

epaulo13 wrote:
At the centre of the bargaining impasse has been the union’s refusal to accept a two-tier wage agreement. The wage system proposed by management would cap the maximum hourly earnings for new hires, effectively paying future workers less than existing ones. Co-op management proposed a sliding wage scale of inequity to the union, paying new hires on average $2.64/hour less than existing employees, with the highest gap being $4.36/hour while clerks and cashiers would see a wage discrepancy of $3.57/hour....

Good for the union. I've worked under 2-tiered collective agreements, and that doesn't build faith and confidence in the union in new members. Under no circumstances should the union accept this, and the board of directors needs to withdraw that demand immediately.

Especially good for this union. In the '90's one of the UFCW grocery store locals was the first to sign on to them in BC. The idea of classes of membership in a union based on date of hire pits worker against worker.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..the last union i belonged to before retiring was the bcgeu. that year they negotiated a 2 tier wage in the sector i worked in and claimed that was the best they could get from the liberals..without even calling for a strike. i was pissed to say the least but more than that it was disheartening.

Misfit Misfit's picture

Just to let you know. There are rotating strikes all over. Regina was on strike. Moose Jaw was on strike for three months. Saskatoon now. Federated Coop operates in Manitoba, Sask., Alta, B.C.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

UFCW Canada Local 1400

Thank you so much to all the delegates at the Saskatoon District Labour Council Annual General Meeting for inviting members of the Saskatoon Coop picket line to speak, and the generous donation

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Solidarity on full display at rally for striking Saskatoon Co-op members

Labour activists, community allies, and family members came out in large numbers on March 8 to show solidarity with striking UFCW Local 1400 members at Saskatoon Co-op. At a lively rally held at the Co-op’s Attridge Gas Bar in Saskatoon, participants called on the company to “Stop the Greed” and negotiate a fair contract.   

Co-hosted by UFCW Canada Locals 649 and 248P, the rally featured a barbecue organized by the UFCW Canada Local 1400 Women’s Committee, as well as several guest speakers and appearances from local Saskatchewan NDP Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs).

quote:

At the Friday rally, activists from UFCW Locals 649 and 248P joined Local 1400 members in front of the Attridge Gas Bar for a major solidarity rally in support of workers at the Co-op. Participants heard from UFCW Canada Saskatchewan Provincial Council President Terry Harris, Local 248P President Pat Horbay, and Local 1400 President Norm Neault, who called on Saskatoon Co-op to do the right thing by negotiating a collective agreement that provides a fair future to Co-op employees.

quote:

Adding to their solidarity were many Co-op members, community allies, and activists from other unions and labour organizations, including the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), SEIU-West, CUPE, USW Canada, IATSE, COPE, IBEW, the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association (USFA), The Stand Community Organizing Centre, and the Saskatoon and District Labor Council (SDLC) — all joining the call for a fair agreement at Saskatoon Co-op. The Co-op members were also joined by workers from Federated Cooperatives Limited (FCL), the parent organization of Saskatoon Co-op.

Ward

AI and automation demands the advent of ubi if humans are to continue to play a role in the economy.
Ford noted that the employees should be able to afford the product

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Town Hall meeting to plan for Co-op board elections

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 7 PM – 9 PM

Join us at our town hall meeting on March 20th at Station 20 West to talk about the upcoming Co-op board elections. We'll be talking about our plans to locate candidates to run for the Co-op board who champion the resolutions we developed as a group at the last Town Hall.

These resolutions center around:

- Fair treatment of workers at Co-op, ending of two-tier wage structures, and good faith negotiation with workers' representatives.
- Returning Co-op to operating around co-operative ethics and principles rather than corporate ones.
- Making Co-op membership meaningful, participatory and democratic, beginning by asserting the Co-op member-elected board's authority over Co-op management.

The draft resolutions:

https://tinyurl.com/yxpoa32h

Actual candidate selection will take place at a future meeting.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Mike Palecek (Natinal President CUPW)

Walked the picket line with Co-op workers in Saskatoon today, who have been on strike since November 1st, against two-tiered collective agreement. These workers deserve our support!

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Members: mark this date down in your calendars and make sure you attend!

Annual General Meeting 2019

Our Annual General Meeting will take place at TCU Place on June 20, 2019.

As a member and owner, this is your opportunity to participate in your Co-op.

The meeting is being scheduled later than last year for two reasons:

  • Amalgamations — Saskatoon Co-op was part of two amalgamations with Hepburn Co-op and Watrous Co-op. Incorporating the financials from these two Co-ops into Saskatoon Co-op’s financials has required more time.
  • Labour dispute — Due to the labour dispute, there have been some delays in preparing this year’s financials.

In the coming weeks, we will make a call for nominations to the board and share more details on the meeting agenda.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture
epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Co-op, union reach tentative agreement five months into strike

quote:

The strike quickly grew acrimonious, with allegations of vandalism, intimidation by private security guards and attempts by unhappy co-operative members to unseat current Saskatoon Co-op directors.

Saskatoon Co-op repeatedly turned down the union’s offer to take the matter to binding arbitration, leading Sawkew to suggest that Saskatchewan law should be changed to ensure strikes can’t run for months or even years.

The union’s negotiations ultimately proposed their own version of a second wage tier, leading one University of Saskatchewan labour relations expert to suggest that “the Trojan horse is through the gate.”

After months of little action at the bargaining table, the union said Monday that it had reached a tentative agreement with the co-operative’s management after a long negotiation session over the weekend.

Both sides have agreed not to discuss the proposal publicly. Picketers said Monday morning that they had not yet seen it. Union members are expected to vote on the proposal at a series of meetings today.

Sawkew, who has spent the strike serving as a “picket captain,” said while he would like get back to work, his fundamental view on the proposed lower wage tier has not changed over the last several months.

“From where I’m sitting, it’s at least a different offer. It’s not the same offer we voted down three times … We all want it settled. But we don’t want to be out here for nothing.”