One of Canada’s largest grain handling companies is denying that a wage increase included in a just-approved collective agreement was intended for all employees.
Two Grain and General Services Union (GSU) locals voted in favour of a new collective agreement with Viterra on Jan. 19, which put an end to its legal strike position announced on Jan. 2.
GSU says the offer included a 4.5 per cent wage increase backdated to Jan. 1 2023, but its members have not yet seen the promised pay bump.
On Friday, the union said Viterra told them the wage increase was only applicable using the company’s “performance eligibility criteria” — meaning payroll goes up 4.5 per cent, but the company decides how much each worker gets, and new employees get nothing.
In a statement to CTV News on Monday, a spokesperson for Viterra said the company was “surprised by the GSU’s reaction.”
Viterra said its interpretation of how to apply the pay increase was consistent with the past several collective agreements and “confirmed with the mediator.”
The company spokesperson also pointed to language on the union’s website that says “eligible members will receive it” based on their hire date and what’s in their letter of offer.
Steve Torgerson, general secretary for the GSU, said the description on the union website was accurate, but their understanding was only those hired after Jan. 1, 2024 would be ineligible.
Based on what he’s heard from Viterra, Torgerson says the company intends to exclude about 25 per cent of the locals’ members — between 80 and 100 people.
“That’s a significant amount of people the company has just alienated.”
Torgerson said Viterra proposed to delete the pay-for-performance language around the wage increase. He says the actual language of the agreement says it will be paid to all employees.
“So I think them taking this sort of shocked approach is, to me, surprising,” he said.
“I don’t think they can have it both ways. In the final offer, it says this increase is not based on performance.”
Based on the communications between the two groups so far, Torgerson says it looks like the dispute will end up in litigation and the GSU members won’t be getting their money any time soon.
The locals represent Viterra employees across Saskatchewan and staff at the head office in Regina.
Viterra is an international agri-business that was formed in 2007 when the iconic Saskatchewan Wheat Pool merged with Agricore United. It handles and markets grain, along with other agricultural products.