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  • Volume Eight, Number Seven: October 2003

    Safeway Clerks Settle, Trades still in Bargaining

    CPP News

    Months of grueling bargaining sessions and several rotating strike actions have finally yielded a new contract deal for lower mainland Safeway store workers.

    The new five-year deal, approved by a 70 per cent vote margin last week by the 5,000 members of Local 1518 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, provides hourly wage increases of 35 cents in the last four years, plus a signing bonus of $150 to $1000 per member, depending on each worker’s seniority.

    The base wage for newly hired workers at Safeway will now be $10.35 an hour. Reportedly, many workers are not happy with the deal, but voted for it anyway, feeling it was the best they could get under the current circumstances, according to union rep Tom Cameron Fawkes.

    “The wages and benefit raises we got are pretty modest, and a lot of our members have pretty mixed feelings about (the agreement),” he said. “But we managed to move the company a long way from where we were eight months ago (with massive concession demands), and we’re happy about that.”

    This new deal averted a planned full-scale shutdown of Safeway operations by Local 1518 members, which had been scheduled for the day after the vote took place.

    Cameron Fawkes said the biggest disappointment people have with the deal is that they failed to convince Safeway bosses to scrap the two tier wage structure and heavy reliance on part-time shifts at the firm. Under this pay regime maintains an $11 an hour difference between clerks hired before 1987, currently working at $21.35 under the terms of the new deal, and those hired since then, working at a rate of $10.85.

    “We agreed to that then to help Safeway because the company was having severe financial problems,” says Cameron Fawkes, citing the firm was faced with a huge task of renovating aging stores and relocating other facilities at the time. “We came through for them then, and we felt this time they could come through for us, but they said ‘no way.’”

    He adds that any attempts to address this situation were thwarted by interventions by the company’s corporate head office in the US.

    Meanwhile, bakers, meat cutters, transportations and other trades workers in two other UFCW locals are ready to take job action by Oct. 4 if they fail to reach an agreement with management.

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