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Unifor Reaches First Contract As New Union, Moves Non-traditional Workplace

VANCOUVER, Sept. 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Unifor is pleased to announce that its first contract ratification is with a virtual workplace, with workers located across British Columbia and Alberta.

"This is what Unifor is all about," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said. "We want to help workers who have been left out of traditional unions."

The bargaining unit of the eight staff at the Left Hand Media Co-op, part of Unifor Local 433, signed a contract in August and conducted a mail-in vote for ratification. The votes were counted Sunday, a day after Unifor was founded on the Saturday of Labour Day weekend.

Staff work from their homes and conduct meetings via the Internet. Even the contract talks were not traditional. Only 3-4 days of face-to-face negotiations took place, with most negotiations taking place with email and documents exchanged online.

The contract includes 2 per cent raises in each of two years, designated days off and shift differentials, things the staff did not have before. More important, as a worker-owned co-op, the members wanted to ensure that their rights would be protected if Left Hand got bigger and more business-like.

"It's not a traditional workplace with people in a plant with an owner and a boss," said unit chair Darien Edgeler.

Because the members are also the owners, they had to elect one of their own to sit on the management side of the table during talks, Edgeler said.

Left Hand works with progressive groups strategize on public campaigns, build web sites and training.

"Unifor is committed to helping all workers in Canada, and reaching out to those in non-traditional workplaces," Dias said. "With this newest group, we're putting this pledge into action."

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, with more than 300,000 members in 20 industrial sectors that span the Canadian economy and in every region of the country. Its members belong to more than 3,000 bargaining union in more than 750 local unions.

In B.C. alone, there are 67 local unions representing more than 28,000 workers.

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