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Metro workers ratify new collective agreement

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Enhanced wages and new full-time jobs mark milestone improvements in a new collective agreement for Metro stores across Ontario, the second group of supermarkets to renew agreements with the grocery chain this year.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished at the bargaining table. We entered this round of negotiations with a clear vision: to improve conditions for our members” said Gord Currie, Local 414 President. 

Creating good full-time jobs, increasing wages and improving pension benefits was a priority for the bargaining committee.

The new four-year contract follows the pattern agreement Unifor established earlier this year for the grocery retail sector, which prioritizes the creation and protection of good full-time jobs. This new agreement at Metro (formerly Dominion Sav-A-Centre stores) also includes leave and return-to-work protections, the elimination of wage tiers for department managers, and a new paid personal day for senior part-time workers. 

“Over the past four years, our union has laid the foundation for high-standard wage and working conditions in a sector that has become notorious for low-pay, precarious work,” said Christine Connor, Unifor National Staff Representative. “The tireless work of our bargaining committee continues to ensure substantial gains for our members.”

The new agreement also contains an improved student leave of absence, an expanded shoe allowance, and a renewed commitment to Unifor’s Women’s Advocate program, to assist members and their families facing domestic violence.

The new collective agreement covers more than 500 workers at four Metro locations in Ontario. Members ratified the agreement by 90 per cent.

Unifor members at Vopak to return to work with heads held high

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Unifor members at Vopak have voted 80 per cent in favour of their new collective agreement, putting an end to just over three months of strike action.

“We can be proud of this outcome and of our members’ unwavering commitment and support for their bargaining committee throughout the labour dispute,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor’s Quebec Director. “We were able to obtain significant improvements in our working conditions, bringing them into line with those in the industry. I want to thank all the local unions that offered financial and moral support to our members at Vopak,” he added.

Highlights of this agreement include a salary increase from $27.55 to $35.20 an hour for employees with three or more years of service, which represents 85 per cent of the workforce. More junior employees will join their co-workers on a salary scale spread over three years. This is a four-year labour contract, with more than two years already elapsed. It runs from June 1, 2017 to June 30, 2021. A signing bonus of $12,000 for full-time employees was obtained, while part-time and probationary employees will receive $4,000. Other important gains include:

  • Double time for overtime starting July 1st, 2020;
  • Contribution of $0.05/hour for the Paid Education Leave (PEL) program;
  • Increase to 5 per cent (from 4 per cent) for the employer’s contribution to the pension plan upon signing, rising to 6.5 per cent as of July 1st, 2020.

Vopak Terminals of Eastern Canada employs some 30 Unifor members working at the company’s oil terminals in Montreal and Quebec City.

Former Marystown Shipyard workers excited for a ‘new beginning’ as aquaculture hub

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Members of Unifor Local 20 at the Marystown Shipyard in Newfoundland and Labrador are excited a deal with new owners has finally been approved by the province.

“I’m proud of how Local 20 worked tirelessly and diligently to secure a fair working agreement for the reopening of the long-dormant former shipyard facility,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “It took years of perseverance and solidarity, but now we see real opportunity for the workers, the people of Marystown and the entire Burin Peninsula.”

The shipyard was a Crown asset for over twenty years and then changed owners many times after it was privatized. The yard has been idle for the past four years.

Local 20 negotiated and ratified a collective agreement with this new company, Marbase, back in January of this year.

“The sale to Marbase hit a few roadblocks since we signed the new agreement, but Premier Ball gave the government’s blessing and funding for additional cleanup, which means we can look forward to getting members back to work,” said Rick Farrell, President of Unifor Local 20.

Marbase will turn the site into a service hub for the province’s growing aquaculture industry that will include a lumpfish hatchery. Lumpfish have been proven to help farmers deal with sea lice infestations in their salmon sea cages, avoiding pesticide use.

The company expects 100 workers will be employed initially, and then grow to about 300 people in two to three years. The announcement comes at a good time, as it coincides with the construction of the largest fish hatchery in the world in Marystown.

MGEU members step up after devastating Thompson Fire


In the aftermath of a devastating fire in Thompson, Manitoba the members of the MGEU are working hard to provide support and comfort to those affected.

Thompson (1 Oct. 2019) - More than 180 Thompson, Manitoba residents have been displaced from their homes following a suspicious fire in the north tower at the Forest View Suites. In the aftermath of the fire the members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU/NUPGE) are working hard to provide support and comfort to those affected.

Star reporter first journalist in Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame

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Legendary Toronto Star reporter Randy Starkman, whose generous spirit during a lengthy strike at the paper helped many of his co-workers endure the dispute, will be the first journalist inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.

“He was so fond of the people he was covering in amateur sports,” said his wife, Mary Hynes, host of CBC Radio’s Tapestry. “An accomplished athlete makes it look so easy, and it was important to him to make readers understand what’s involved.”

Starkman covered 12 Olympic Games during his 30-year career, turning down opportunities to cover professional teams to focus on amateur sports. He was loved by the athletes and their families for his ability to tell the human side of their efforts, and the complexities of their sports.

“He humanized us to the Canadian public,” Olympian Clara Hughes, who remains a close friend of Hynes and daughter Ella, told the Toronto Star.

Starkman was covering an amateur swim event in Montreal in 2012 when he fell ill, and died days later in a Toronto hospital at age 51.

At the London Olympics that summer, the Canadian Olympic Committee held a breakfast in his honour, and “Flat Randy” dolls made by his sister were taken around to events at the Games by fellow journalists and athletes, since no one there could imagine the Games without him.

Seven years later, Hynes – who met her husband covering amateur sports more than 30 years ago – said she still receives photos of Flat Randy at amateur events, and notes from athletes about their memories of him. At Starkman’s encouragement, many athletes also became fans of her show.

During a lengthy strike at the Toronto Star 1992, Starkman would prepare breakfast on the picket line, propping his mother’s grill on the tailgate of his Jeep to cook bacon and eggs or serving up bagels, cream cheese and lox.

“That was his self-appointed role, to keep spirits up,” Hynes said. “It was unexpected and such an affectionate way for him to show support.”

Former Star columnist Joey Slinger once wrote in the paper that Starkman was a “prince among colleagues, a diamond among craftspersons” whose morning efforts helped many cope with the stresses of the picket line.

Starkman won two National Newspaper Awards, one for reporting that Ben Johnson has tested positive again for ban substances and another for his pioneering work on concussions in hockey, and authored or co-authored three books.

The Canadian Olympic Committee also announced the Randy Starkman Award recognizing a Canadian national team athlete who has used their sporting excellence to benefit the community, with $5,000 going to the athlete and $5,000 to a charity of their choice.

Video highlights Unifor’s organizing efforts

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Unifor’s Organizing Department is looking for ways to better reflect a modern workplace, adapting our organizing strategies to help more workers join the union.

 “We need to reflect the diversity of a changing workplace. We need to target new employers, highlight the bargaining power that we have and the influence we have and really demonstrate why Unifor is the union for workers,” Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan said in a video about Organizing.

That video was shown at Unifor’s Constitutional Convention in August, and highlights the diverse methods used by the department to bring more workers into the union.

One of the workplaces featured in the video is the Chaleur Sawmills in Belledune, N.B., where workers became interested in joining Unifor after seeing the advances that Unifor has been able to make for forestry workers across the country. Unifor was certified as the union at Chaleur shortly after the video was shown at the convention.

It was a similar story in Lac St-Jean, Quebec, where workers at Résolu Normandin voted to join Unifor so they could be part of pattern bargaining in forestry.

“It was unanimous. Unifor, from a forestry point of view in the Bois-du-Lac, is stronger. We noticed immediately that we were better off with Unifor,” said Marc Jobin, president of Local 512 at the mill.

The video highlights organizing drives across Canada and efforts to tailor drives to each workplace.

For example, the department has drawn on Unifor airline workers to help organize workers at WestJet as part of a drive that stretches across the country.

At the casinos in Niagara Falls, Unifor casino workers are an integral part of the effort, where the department is also reaching out to Chinese language workers in their own language.

In British Columbia, Unifor used a unique fisheries labour law to organize fishers there. That law had been on the books for years, but no other union had used it.

“We used it,” Scanlan said.

NUPGE Peace Officers join annual memorial


“These women and men have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the public. All Canadians must remember their names. Our members, who are peace officers, have a difficult and dangerous job, and this service reminds us of the risks and threats they face." NUPGE President Larry Brown