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Sobeys weekly pay grievance: Update and Arbitrator Ready Award

As most of you are now aware, a decision was issued on July 16th from Arbitrator Vince Ready regarding Sobeys/Safeway’s intention to implement a bi-weekly payroll system.

Safeway, UFCW 247 and UFCW 1518 agreed to an expedited hearing before Arbitrator Vince Ready in order to have a decision before the bi-weekly payroll system was to begin. The hearing was conducted on July 11th with all the parties present.

Arbitrator Ready agreed with the Unions that Safeway’s announced changed violates the Collective Agreement and that Safeway should have provided more notice to the Unions and employees. Arbitrator Ready in his decision wrote:

I find that Safeway’s proposed bi-weekly payroll violates Article 7.01 of the UFCW 1518 Collective Agreement and Article 6.12 of the UFCW 247 Collective Agreement. The parties in their respective Collective Agreements clearly turned their minds to the frequency with which employees are to be paid. Consequently, this is not an issue that Safeway can unilaterally change without the agreement of the Locals. Certainly how frequently employees are paid is of considerable importance not just to the employees but also the Unions who represent them.

Further, on matters that impact the payment of wages, even when that is just the frequency of the payment, an Employer should provide as much notice as reasonably possible. I find that Safeway should have provided more notice about the intended changes.

Arbitrator Ready agreed with Safeway that the move to Sobeys IT platform was necessary and that Sobeys IT platform was unable to do a weekly payroll without enormous costs. He agreed there had been a material change in the circumstances since the Collective Agreement was ratified and that such a change has had a significant impact on Safeway operations in British Columbia. He wrote:

I accept the evidence that the change of payroll platform, the inability of the Sobeys’ SAP payroll system to accommodate a weekly payroll, and the prohibitive cost of a separate weekly Safeway payroll. I find that that impact on Safeway operations in B.C. would be significant and the harm suffered by the employees to be relatively minor.

In addition Arbitrator Ready ordered the following additional conditions that would help to minimize the impact on our members and he ordered both a voluntary bridging loan and a part-time vacation bank. They are described as follows from the written decision.

Bridge Loan:

Safeway will offer a onetime bridge loan, equivalent to one week of gross earnings payable on the employee’s first “missed” deposit date. If employees choose to utilize this loan, equal payments will be made over the next 20 weeks (10 pay periods). I will leave the details of the bridge loan to the parties to work out.

Part time Vacation bank:

Safeway will calculate the part time vacation pay based on prior year’s gross earnings as stated in the collective agreement and create a bank of those funds which can be taken as a lump sum (current practice) or withdrawn when vacation time off is taken. I will leave it to the parties to work out any Collective Agreement language that may need to be modified. If the parties cannot agree on the amending language I will remain seized to determine how the Collective Agreements are to be modified.

Local 247 President Suzanne Hodge stated: We understand that many of our members may be disappointed with the outcome however we will respect Mr. Ready’s decision and will work with Safeway to get the changes done as smoothly as possible.

The first 2 stores to convert bi-weekly pay are stores #60 in Vancouver and #93 in Port Coquitlam. Local 247 Representatives Cathy Shannon and Bruce Jackson will be visiting both locations to assist our members. In addition Safeway have also assigned personnel to these locations to deal with any issues.

For a full copy of the Ready Award please click on the following link.

  • ufcw [at] ufcw247 [dot] com