Employer Locks Out Union Support Staff

United Steel Workers local 2009 Begin Picketing Union Head Office

NEW WESTMINSTER - Long-standing negotiations broke down between two unions in British Columbia today, April 8, when the employer, UFCW 1518, locked out its staff, who support over 20,000 UFCW 1518 members across the province in their bargaining, mobilizing, and labour disputes.


The locked-out staff are members of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2009 and include both representatives and administrative staff. Starting at noon today, all will be picketing outside the UFCW 1518 Head Office for as long as the lockout lasts, to protest the employer’s anti-union tactics. Media are invited to attend at 350 Columbia St, New Westminster.

USW Vice-President Georgi Bates says the employer’s stubbornness has been a major roadblock to getting a deal. “There’s been a very uncompromising, one sided mandate at the table - that’s been their attitude,” she says, “But as any unionist knows, that’s not bargaining. That’s bulldozing.”


Bargaining between UFCW 1518 and USW has been dragging on since 2020. The lockout is not the first hit staff have taken. In June and November of 2021, the employer unilaterally reduced health and welfare benefits without bringing those changes to the bargaining table. In late January, the employer tabled a Final Offer, which signalled an unwillingness to engage in further bargaining. Staff unanimously voted against the Offer which also included a two tier scheme for compensation and benefits. The Steelworkers applied for mediation shortly after the final offer vote and the employer only engaged one day of mediation. The employer then threatened to Lockout and bring the members back to work, but under the condition of no collective agreement and changed terms and conditions.


“We were super relieved that it didn’t come to that,” Bates says, “UFCW 1518 agreed to return the bargaining table. But as the days passed, it became clear they weren’t prepared to clear the other big roadblock we continue to bang into: financial transparency to bring to our members.”


While the employer has relentlessly rummaged for places to slash their staff’s collective agreement, they refuse to provide compelling evidence that would suggest these cuts are necessary.

The picketing staff are concerned about the example their employer is setting. They fear that the very corporations and bosses who employ workers like UFCW 1518 members will try similar underhanded moves. “Our members are not willing to accept concessions that aren’t warranted or transparent, our members are not willing to accept different terms and compensation for new hires or two-tier schemes, our members aren’t willing to accept non-pensionable wages and they’re not willing to set an example that an employer can come after previously fought for negotiated terms simply because an employer chooses to”


“The workers you’ll see today talk to union members every day — that’s their job,” says Bates, “They know their voices, their faces, their struggles. They care about the people they serve, and they would never stand for an employer strong-arming a UFCW 1518 member. So, they’re not going to stand for their boss strong-arming them.” 


That’s why they’re asking the employer to rescind the lockout and return to the bargaining table. USW 2009 wants to return to their jobs helping workers and they want to get back to the bargaining table. “The narrative from the employer that this is about “perks” is offensive,” says Bates, “those are long fought for negotiated compensation  terms of the collective agreement, and employers looking to be “financially responsible” by only shining the light on their employees is wrong, in our opinion” 

“Our members want to continue the good work of uplifting all working people and the we get there is by getting back to the bargaining table” said Bates.



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