CAW Makes Big Strides in Landmark Retail Contract

August 21, 2013, 9:50 AM EST

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Dominion supermarket workers in Newfoundland and Labrador have ratified a new three-year province-wide collective agreement that makes major wage and benefit gains for 1400 CAW Local 597 members.

Over the three-year deal, hourly wages will increase by $1.35 for all store workers (45¢ per year), night shift premiums will jump by an additional 50¢ and part-time workers will be eligible to receive group family benefits for the first time ever (with the employer covering 50 per cent of the cost), among other major gains.

The significant jump in wages was the largest ever made by Dominion store workers in the province, which helps raise the standard of living for some of the lowest-paid workers in the country, said Deb Tveit, Assistant to the CAW President.

"This set of negotiations wasn't about the union playing hardball with the employer. It was about raising the expectations of these workers, and raising their standard of living," Tveit said.

Members voted 76 per cent in favour of the new deal, following a series of meetings held throughout the province between August 1 and 11. The tentative deal was reached on July 31.

The agreement also includes language that ensures both full and senior part-time workers have access to at least two weekends off the job in a four-week period, a move that helps enhance work-life balance. In 2012, CAW members in Toronto-area supermarkets led a successful campaign that protected guaranteed time off the job for retail workers during statutory holidays.

CAW staff representative Wayne Butler said the union came into negotiations with a strong sense of unity among the members and set the bar very high.

"All of us were committed to winning long-overdue improvements to this agreement. There's still a lot of room for improvement, but we're clearing a path forward," Butler said.

CAW Local 597 President Carolyn Wrice credited the bargaining committee, including representation from each of the 11 stores in the bargaining unit, for their perseverance and dedication to winning a fair deal.

"I'm proud of our union, our committee and our members and I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish in this deal," Wrice said. "I'm tired of watching retail workers winning the race-to-the-bottom. We have to view collective bargaining as a means to raising the standards for all workers in this sector. I'm confident we can continue to make big strides."

The CAW represents more than 20,000 retail workers across Canada.

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