Workers overwhelmingly vote to strike at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owned Wine Rack stores

Workers overwhelmingly vote to strike at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owned Wine Rack stores

TORONTO, May 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Wine Rack workers voted 86% in support of strike action yesterday. The workers, members of SEIU Local 2, say low wages, basic job security and fairness are all key issues. Wine Rack is owned by the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan through one of its holdings, Arterra Wines Canada.

The workers say they are being asked to accept terms that would not address a severe problem with their hours and job security. Current wages and working conditions have resulted in a stunning annual employee turnover rate of 50%. Workers are seeking a deal which will give them the ability to work sufficient hours at a fair wage. Wine Rack has so far refused to provide workers with this basic level of dignified work. In addition, management has proposed a Manager-in-Training program which workers say is a thinly veiled scheme to further erode their hours, if not eviscerate their union altogether.

“The hours are divvied up on a basis that is completely arbitrary, and the scheduling varies greatly from week to week,” said Francesco Lo Presti, a Toronto-area employee. “We are asking for a little fairness. The fluctuating income makes it difficult to reconcile one’s bills at the end of the month with this type of precarious work.”

Lo Presti and his co-workers are asking their employer to assign hours using seniority, to ensure that current employees can expect to receive sufficient hours to earn enough to make ends meet. But Wine Rack management is insisting on retaining the right to arbitrarily assign hours to new hires or preferred employees without regard to years of service.

Constellation Brands Canada (subsequently renamed Arterra Wines Canada) was acquired by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in 2016, making this attack on workers especially disappointing given that a Union pension fund owns Wine Rack.

“I think it’s great that teachers have unions and have been able to make a good living,” said Radha Bhagat, a Toronto-area employee. “I also think that all workers, especially those of us on the minimum wage end, deserve that chance too.”

Workers will continue to come to the table and work to reach a fair deal but say they will not compromise on basic job security and fairness. They are also planning on launching a public campaign to raise awareness amongst Ontario teachers. They want to make sure teachers know how one of their pension fund assets, is treating workers.

“We’ll be asking teachers not to build their retirement security at our expense,” said Bhagat.

SEIU Local 2 represents workers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

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