By Daniel Tseghay
In April of 2015, the Nanaimo Golf Club locked out 24 food and beverage workers after they served a strike notice. The workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40, included the chef, bartenders, cooks, servers, dishwashers and janitors.
Despite coming to agreement on a number of issues, including health care, the two sides remain in a deadlock. The employer insists on reducing the pay for entry-level employees and increasing the probationary pay period.
Not surprisingly, the union has opposed this demand. Both sides also disagree over a no-reprisal clause for workers who cross the picket line, with the union wanting to issue fines.
Finally, both sides have reached an impasse on which workers should be included in the collective agreement.
“Now they say they’ll hire an executive chef and strip the chef of all their duties and give it to the executive chef,” says Teresa South, Victoria Area Steward with Local 40. “But we say you can’t have an executive chef who is non-union. They can do scheduling but they can’t be in the kitchen cooking.”
With a long expired contract and an ongoing lockout, the union’s bid at binding arbitration was only recently agreed upon.
Meanwhile, the workers continue to picket every day between 7am and 5pm in their effort to defend against concessions. And they’ve been supported by the community, with businesses and organizations taking their events and tournaments elsewhere. Members of the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union have even walked the picket line with locked out UNITE HERE members. People driving by regularly honk in support. And, aware of the financial burden, community members have dropped by with food, provided grocery gift cards, and have hosted fundraisers throughout this long, bitter struggle.
“Although the Golf Club seems to think that the community doesn’t care about us, our experience is that they care a lot,” said Stephanie Sparkes in a press release.
Public pressure could advantage workers in the long run. “Last year the golf club was able to sustain because they already had all their membership dues in,” says South. “Now with the new year people are just not paying until this ends. Not only have they lost all their food and beverage money but they’ve also lost their membership money.”
The union is calling calling on current golf members to not renew their memberships and for prospective members to reconsider their decision. The union, and the Nanaimo, Duncan & District Labour Council have posted a billboard as part of the boycott. And to keep the picket line going, the union has doubled members’ picket pay and provided full health coverage. The labour council has also donated money, donated Christmas presents, donated a tent and members have joined the picket line.
But this is still an uphill battle. “Going to the labour board does not help with the current government,” says South. “We’ve had meetings with city council. We’ve said, “You give the golf course free money. Why don’t you charge them? Stop giving them tax cuts. People are putting pressure on them but they haven’t broken yet.”
This article was last updated Feb. 29.