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Westfair Doesn't Want You at Top Rate

It seemed like a normal three day session of bargaining for the Retail Committee representing RCSS and Corporate Extra Foods members on June 15-17 when at the very end of the last day, Company officials informed us they had another proposal they were tabling. They wished to address the issue of top rate access and/or % of hours for retail to address competitive nature of the market specific to low top end competitors, both union and non-union.

Translation..they want less people getting to top rates.

In discussions over their competitors in the marketplace, it seems that anyone who pays as much or more is not a competitor, while anyone with a lower top end is a competitor. Westfair has always been reluctant to negotiate increases to start rates, although at various times they have hired employees at well above the rates in the agreement, particularly in the Distribution Centres. They have traditionally looked at off scale increases and then adding to the top rate in the scales, anticipating that few people would stay around to reach those rates. For the most part, they have been correct. Turnover has been high and a very low percentage of employees stay with the Company for extended periods of time. Now it seems as though more people are choosing to try and make Westfair a career. This has been made difficult with the introduction of more U-Scan tills, the elimination of Meat Cutters in Extra Foods and the decrease in hours in RCSS locations due to new operating standards. It would currently take someone 8322 hours to reach the top rate of $23.76. For someone getting 20 hours a week it would take them 416 weeks...or 8 years. For the first four years they would be making less than $12.50 an hour. There are very few full-time opportunities in the stores and in fact there is not one full-time cashier in a Superstore that we are aware of. Not exactly a huge incentive to stay.

The Company was very vague in presenting this proposal, telling us they were not looking for concessions. Once we get a clearer explanation of what exactly they are looking for, we will update you with that information.

On June 16 and 17 we dealt with the Distribution specific proposals and progress was slow. The Company has announced a third warehouse would be opened in the lower mainland and that it would be operated by a third party. Much of the discussions centered on the potential impact of the new facility. In the last set of negotiations the wording surrounded the then-new Pitt Meadows facility was introduced and we spent considerable time re-visiting the language and updating it.

Job security is a main concern for the warehouse bargaining committee as seniority rights and scheduling language proposals have been tabled. Seniority rights are of paramount importance as there have been recent group huddles discussing the movement of the Controlled Environment department to the third party distribution centre.



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