Are benefits we receive a reward?

The truth is our benefits are NOT a reward. They came from the Brothers and Sisters before us that held a sit down, a walk out, three strikes and another strike that was averted at the 11th hour a mere fourteen years ago. This was all accomplished through hard fought negotiations at each and every bargaining table since September 21, 1959 when USW 5890 in Regina Sask. was proudly certified.

Brief History

USW 5890 in Regina’s first Collective Agreement (Contract) was signed in 1959 with Ipsco, our former employer and did not include any benefits for workers. Job Classes ran from 1-15 and paid $1.70 and $2.54 per hour respectively. The Contract was 30 pages long.The second Contract was signed in 1961 with a new Article named “Welfare”. This was the first time anything remotely close to benefits was mentioned. The coverage included two things in the article. First the company agreed to pay the premiums to cover Medical Services in the province. Second they agreed to cover Sickness and Accident Insurance that would pay a member $20.00 per week for 13 weeks.

USW 5890 next improvement to benefits came in 1966 when still under the Welfare Article the union achieved Accidental Death or Dismemberment Insurance that paid $4000.00. In 1970 USW 5890 successfully negotiated yet another new article into the contract which was “Bereavement Pay”.

As 1972 rolled around the members of USW 5890 demanded a pension. The response from the company was a flat out NO. The local responded with the first strike at Ipsco. Solidarity on the line was strong and the members were determined. Stories abound about then Ipsco President Jack Turvey driving over spikes at the entrance leading down to the main office and arriving there with all four tires flat. As well, there was supervisors living in the plant for days while food and supplies were flown in by a helicopter that was rumored to have been shot at from somewhere on the picket line. In the end the workers held “Strong” and their “Reward” was a Defined Contribution pension where the company contributed 10 cents for every regular hour and the employees contributed 5 cents.

When negotiations ended in 1974, USW 5890 had achieved the first mention of a Dental Plan under the welfare article.

COLA was bargained into the Contract with the header “Letter of Understanding” in 1976. This was also the year that the word “Welfare” was removed from the contract and “Benefits” replaced it to more accurately reflect what the members were receiving.

In 1978 the local was successful in negotiating Unemployment Benefit” or (SUB) fund.

With USW 5890’s contract in place in 1983 Chain Bargaining with our local USW 6673 and Edmonton Ipsco had now begun, at that time our local was USW 6034 and the three local’s had now negotiated that the company would pay full premium costs of “Extended Health Benefits”.

Negotiations in 1987 turned ugly as the union USW 5890 & USW 6673 demanded a change to the pension plan. In the end the two local’s won a Defined Benefit Plan pension for the members that we still have today.

2002 bargaining was a nail biter also as the company Ipsco wanted our members to take concessions which involved our pension plan. Our members of both locals 5890 and 6673 responded by holding a strike vote which resulted in an overwhelming 96% in favour of a work stoppage. The company and our union came to an agreement at the 11th hour and a strike was avoided.

2009-2010 Ipsco is bought first by Swedish company SSAB only to be resold to Evraz months later.

2011 negotiations began with Evraz wanting to freeze wages and benefits and make major changes to the pension plan that was not beneficial to our members or the future of this local. These were successfully fought off at the bargaining table and gains in the Collective Agreement were made.

2014 negotiations once again were tough, Evraz was standing firm on many issues and in turn so was both the bargaining committees from 5890 and 6673. At the end, through much discussion, negotiating and debate a 2 year collective agreement was reached with improvements to language, benefits including our pension plan to name a few.

Paid Statutory Holidays are not a company “Reward”. They have been written into our contract since the inception of the first one in 1959 and are enshrined in the Alberta and Saskatchewan Labour Code.

In the last 55 years or more no matter what company has splashed their name on the buildings at work or what kind of “Values Driven” organization they claim to be; understand that not one damn thing has been given to us, Brothers and Sisters. Every benefit, every increase in wages and every gain that is in the current Collective Agreement has been made through tough negotiations with the strength and support of the membership. Together we are strong and just as determined as those that came before us. Your Bargaining Committee’s are committed and determined to build on the successes of the past and leave a better future for the next generation of our members. When that is achieved, that is what will be rewarding.

Solidarity Forever!

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Solidarity Forever

USW 5890 & 6673