Springhill Farms’ members approve new wage agreement
Workers vote 79 per cent in favour of contract put forward by union and company.
On Tuesday, Feb. 9, UFCW local 832 members working at Springhill Farms in Neepawa, Manitoba ratified a new five-year agreement that will see stabilization to their pension plan, increases to their wages, shift premiums, and important language for members working under the Foreign Worker Nominee Program. Of the 500 members working at Springhill Farms, over 400 of them voted in favour of the new fi ve-year agreement by 79 per cent. “This is a strong contract for our members at Springhill Farms. We were able to negotiate the necessary money to help stabilize their pension, making sure they had wage increases in every year of the collective agreement. The members at Springhill Farms will remain the highest paid packinghouse workers in the province,” stated UFCW Local 832 secretary-treasurer Jeff Traeger.
In an interview with The Neepawa Banner, Traeger said, “Seventy-nine per cent shows a very strong level of satisfaction. It’s the best way to tell you’ve done a good job of negotiating on behalf of the members.”
Traeger explained that some members who didn’t come to the information meetings at Neepawa’s Yellowhead Centre had their questions answered during the 13 hour voting session that was held at the plant.
Traeger noted that the collective bargaining process was familiar to some of the Korean workers but that many of the Filipino and Ukrainian workers had not been through a collective bargaining process in their homeland. “We had a bargaining committee of six and a sub-committee of 16 and we met regularly through the whole process. The immigrant workers especially appreciated the level of communication and involvement that we had with them through the process.” Documents were regularly translated into Ukrainian and Korean during the months of negotiation. The UFCW also used their offices on Hamilton Street in downtown Neepawa for meetings with workers. Traeger said, “We not only translated the summary of the agreement but the full contract details so workers could read it.”
Members under the Foreign Worker Nominee Program now have contract language that states the company will now be responsible for processing all the necessary paperwork, provide translators whenever required by foreign workers and pay for the translation of the contract if there are more than 100 members whose first language is not English. An expedited arbitration process has also been introduced for members under the Foreign Worker Program if they have been terminated. These members will be allowed to stay in the province until the arbitrator’s award is received. This is the second time that the union has been successful in negotiating this clause which has been garnering attention across Canada as an important piece of contract language to protect foreign workers. Along with language improvements to the collective agreement, the company agreed to meet with the union to look at reclassification of the work that is being performed at Springhill Farms. This reclassification process will see further wage increases once completed. All members will see wage increases of $1.30 to $2.10 over the life of the agreement along with increases to shift premiums, tool and boot allowance.