Group sent clear message to employer after turning down first agreement with 95% strike vote
SEIU Local 2 members in Vernon, BC, at Okanagan Springs Brewery ratified their new three-year deal on June 25th, 2023, and there are a lot of good gains across the board in the new CBA for the 100 plus members.
“The cost of living has increased so much; we knew we had to fight hard,” said Regan Laraway. “I think we accomplished our goal as we have never before seen the kind of wage increases we got in this deal. It should help people working here.” Regan is in his thirteenth year at the brewery and eleventh on the bargaining committee.
“The wage increases are front loaded,” said bargaining committee member Shawn Wilde. “Nine and a quarter percent in the first two years. Considering inflation, we wanted to get as much upfront as possible.”
Wages are going up by 5.25% in the first year, and are retroactive to January 1st. In just a few months, on January 1st, 2024, workers will receive another 4% raises, followed by a 2.5% raises on New Years Day, 2025. Afternoon and Graveyard shift premiums have also been increased.
It wasn’t an easy road though. “This was my fourth contract at OSB,” said Shawn. “It was the longest and most difficult set of negotiations I experienced – 18 days when we’re normally done under eight.”
“The company was coming after membership to pay for LTD,” explains Regan, “but we were able to hold it at employees paying only one quarter capped at 2023 rate starting last year of this contract. Eventually we’d like to see these 100% employer paid.”
Negotiations began in November 2022, and at least some of the wait for a new contract can be attributed to the number of concessions the employer was looking for – and the workers’ refusal to cave. Members voted to strike on May 6th as they turned down the employer’s offer with 95% of the vote. As far as Shawn knows, it’s the first time the membership there has done so.
Other improvements were made in addition to wages.
“We won modest increases in benefits – medical and vision care are improved,” explained Shawn. Vision has increased from $300 to $450, and all paramedical coverage as increased by $50. Additionally, acupuncture benefits have been added and there’s an increase to Orthotics. “We also made it so that you can qualify for 6-weeks of vacation one year sooner.”
“We now have better language in multiple articles,” said Shelley Sigurdson, who has worked at OSB for 20 years. “We also have three new permanent postings.”
In addition to getting better vacation pay, National Truth and Reconciliation Day has been added as a statutory holiday, there is better language for bereavement leave, and the Employer will now pay 50% towards doctor’s notes and $100 for std/ltd forms.
“Unions are important because you have a group collectively fighting for fair work conditions, wages, benefits, etc.,” said Regan.
“Considering inflation of the last few years, the best way to catch up is to be unionized,” added Shawn. “You get control of your future.”
If you’re a brewery worker and don’t have a union, find out about the many advantages of being a member.
“I would recommend getting organized with a Union to achieve fair wages, benefits, pensions and to improve overall working environment,” concludes Shelley.