SEASONAL AGRICULTURAL WORKERS AT BC FARM GO UNION WITH UFCW CANADA:
THE BC LABOUR RELATIONS BOARD HAS CERTIFIED A BARGAINING UNIT OF MORE THAN 70 MIGRANT AGRICULTURE WORKERS AFTER A MAJORITY OF THE WORKERS VOTED TO JOIN UFCW CANADA LOCAL 1518.
New Westminster, BC – March 4, 2010 – The BC Labour Relations Board has certified a bargaining unit of more than 70 migrant agriculture workers after a majority of the workers voted to join UFCW Canada Local 1518. The workers come to Canada each season under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and are employed by Sidhu & Sons Nursery Limited. Sidhu, with a central office in Mission, BC, operates half-a-dozen nursery locations across the Lower Mainland specializing in shrubbery, trees, and other landscape ornamental plants.
The SAWP workers at Sidhu are now the second certified bargaining unit represented by UFCW Canada Local 1518. Local 1518 also represents seasonal workers at Floralia Growers near Abbotsford, where a first collective agreement was ratified last September.
“We welcome the newest members at Sidhu,” said UFCW Canada Local 1518 President Ivan Limpright. “This has been a long struggle, with many challenges by the employer, but at the end of the day these workers stood by their right to have a union and we’re there for them.”
The unit was certified earlier this week after the ballots were tallied. UFCW Canada Local 1518 is now preparing a notice to the employer to commence bargaining.
The SAWP workers at Sidhu had actually cast their ballots over a year ago, but the ballot box had been sealed pending challenges from Sidhu. The employer argued that because it also employs domestic workers, a stand-alone unit of SAWP workers was not appropriate. But on February 9, after the union challenged the Vice Chair’s original decision, the reconsideration panel referred the award back to the Vice Chair. Then, after many days of hearings, he overturned his original decision in favour of the union. The Vice-Chair upheld the right of the SAWP workers to form their own bargaining unit if a majority of them voted to.
They did, “and it proves these workers want representation, and they want it from UFCW Canada,” says Wayne Hanley, the National President of UFCW Canada. “This is a victory for the SAWP workers at Sidhu, and for all agriculture workers in Canada who want to exercise their constitutional right to unionize and bargain a collective agreement.”
UFCW Canada is the country’s largest private-sector union, and in association with the AWA, operates nine agriculture worker support centres across Canada, including AWA centres in Surrey, Abbotsford, and Kelowna, BC. In addition to its British Columbia bargaining units, UFCW Canada also represents agriculture workers at locations in Quebec and Manitoba.