Arterra Wines, owned by the teachers via the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, turned down calls from striking workers to resume bargaining over the weekend. Talks remain at a standstill while Wine Rack continues to recruit scab labour and refuses to accede to demands for fair wage and scheduling policies which would end the dispute.
Wine Rack workers unionized with SEIU (Services Employees International Union) Local 2 began their strike on June 7th after talks collapsed following the employer’s refusal to accede to two of their three core demands: a fair scheduling system and a livable wage. The current approach to wages and scheduling leaves worker remuneration up to individual management discretion. This makes workers vulnerable to racial and other discrimination and with no recourse to due process.
Over the weekend, the workers indicated to Arterra Wines that they were ready to return to the table. The employer ignored the call and has continued recruiting scabs to staff stores to undermine the workers’ fight for a fair scheduling system and livable wages. Wine Rack workers have so far spent a week picketing at Wine Rack stores throughout Toronto and garnering significant support amongst community members and the broader labour movement.
Arterra Wines is owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP). The workers are grateful for the outpouring of support from rank-and-file teachers. However, the workers are disappointed that the response of the presidents of the teachers’ unions have been limited to statements and no meaningful action.
Arterra’s actions throughout bargaining and this strike are in complete conflict with the OTPP’s commitment to responsible investment. What’s more, allowing Arterra Wines to continue with their current wage and hour scheduling policies exposes the OTPP’s investment to significant reputational risk and legal complaints. The lack of action from the teachers’ unions is not a question of inability – the pension answers to the teachers alone. The lack of action is due to a lack of political will.
The Canadian Labour movement is coming together during the Canadian Labour Congress upcoming this week. The ongoing Wine Rack workers’ strike will mean that the teachers’ unions will be walking into the congress with their pension plan actively enabling a vicious attack on workers’ rights. With this stark reality looming over the conference, the usual show of unity which the Canadian Labour Congress represents will instead be one of disunity.
SEIU Local 2 represents workers in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia.