December 15, 2010

Labour community supporting UFCW strikers

Extra Foods Strikers in Maple Ridge
reach two years on picket line


FROM UFCW 1518 - The march started at noon, and among those who addressed the supporters and members were Ivan Limpright, president of Local 1518, Craig Spiers, City Councillor for Maple Ridge, and Harry Bains, NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton.

"We're not here to celebrate an anniversary', says Limpright, "but we're here to honour the stand our members have taken, to show our solidarity with them, and our commitment to them."

"Your Local Union fought long and hard to turn working at a grocery store into the opportunity to earn a living wage, and we will continue to fight for the basic values and human dignity that earning a living wage represents," he says.

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for our members at these locations," says Secretary-Treasurer Frank Pozzobon, "and we will continue to do what it takes to support them as they take this fight on for not only themselves, but every other member of our union working in the retail food industry. It's clear that this employer can afford to pay a living wage and still make a good profit, and there remains no justification whatsoever for Loblaws to demand wage and benefits rollbacks."

"With the holiday season here, on behalf of the union's members and Executive Board, I want to wish our members in Maple Ridge and Prince Rupert all the best," says Ivan Limpright. "Our members have held their heads up high through a tough, tough fight with one of the biggest corporations in Canada, and I want to personally thank them for doing so. It hasn't been easy, but they're sticking to it and determined, and we hope that sometime soon saner heads will prevail and we'll end this dispute on terms that make sense both for us, and the employer."

This march and rally was jointly sponsored by the NWDLC, FVLC and UFCW 1518.

Why The Extra Foods Strikes In Maple Ridge And Prince Rupert Matter

This winter brings about an anniversary no one wants to see, as today, December 15th, marks two years on the picket line for Extra Foods members in Maple Ridge who have been on strike against Loblaws, the Toronto based grocery giant. Joining members in Maple Ridge are Extra Foods members in Prince Rupert who are now into their seventh month on the picket line.

Members remain dedicated to this fight against Loblaws and their demands to significantly roll back members' wages and benefits under a "No Frills" contract.

"Members in Maple Ridge and Prince Rupert understand that they have been caught in the centre of a fundamentally important fight for all retail food workers who are being paid a decent wage," says Ivan Limpright. "UFCW 1518 is very proud of these workers, who with tremendous commitment continue to stand strong."

Despite the lengthy span of the strike in both areas, members continue to put their hours in at the picket line. "Yes, we are tired and we are frustrated...but our morale is good," says Joanne Prawdzik, member of Local 1518, Maple Ridge. "Our community supports us...they wish us good luck," she says.

"Support offered from the residents of Maple Ridge over the past two years is a constant reminder, not only for Extra Foods members, but for the entire union, that standing up for our right to earn a living wage gives us a powerful voice that has the respect of the communities we live in," says Limpright.

Maple Ridge's Extra Foods has been closed since December 15, 2008, the date picket lines went up.

UFCW 1518 members at Prince Rupert Extra Foods have been on the picket line since June 4, 2010. Loblaws closed their Extra Foods store after the members refused to accept seeing their wages and benefits go through the slash-and-burn rollbacks of Loblaws proposed No Frills contract.

Because there remains the very real possibility that Loblaws could re-occupy the Extra Foods store space, members in Prince Rupert have diligently kept up their picket line. The store's closure in June followed an earlier Labour Relation Board ruling that found Loblaws guilty of engaging in an illegal lockout by drastically cutting members' hours. The LRB ordered Loblaws to pay its employees full wage recovery for the period of the illegal lockout, with approximately $50,000 being paid to the Prince Rupert Extra Foods workers.

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