Members of Unifor Local 728 voted 86 per cent in favour to accept the offer recommended by their bargaining committee, bringing an end to the labour dispute at the Paccar plant.
“We made good gains during this round of bargaining but unfortunately we were unable to deliver on one of our priorities, which was the elimination of two-tier pension plans,” said Unifor’s Quebec Director Renaud Gagné. “It makes no sense that employees had to face a lock-out and risk their jobs to do away with a measure that is now considered illegal.”
It should be noted that workers at the plant are covered by two different defined benefit pension plans depending on their date of hire. Group A, composed of workers having more seniority, receives higher benefits than Group B. Since June 2018, it is illegal to negotiate this type of provision in Quebec as it constitutes wage discrimination based on the employee’s hiring date. The problem is that the law does not ban such clauses in collective agreements negotiated before this amendment.
“Paccar makes a ridiculous amount of money, but it still refused to settle this issue. Even though we succeeded in reducing the gap in pension benefits between these two groups, there is still a difference of $15 per month per year of service. That’s a considerable amount. It should also be pointed out that the employer raised the possibility of moving production to other plants,” Gagné said.
The new collective agreement nonetheless offers numerous gains, including a 15 per cent wage increase over five years, the elimination of Group A and B in seniority calculations, an increase in pension benefits, including those in Group B, which are increased by 35 per cent (reducing the gap with Group A to 27 per cent), the addition of a second prevention representative for occupational health and safety, an increase in shift premiums and an increase in maximum group insurance earnings, which was also a bargaining priority.
The fact that the union was able to get more out of Paccar than what was in its final offer is without a doubt a significant victory. Another substantial gain to emerge from this dispute is the solidarity between members generated by the lock-out. As Gagné pointed out, “You could just feel how much solidarity and mobilization there was between everyone present at the ratification meeting.”
“It’s time for the Legault government to pass legislation to help us resolve these unfair and inequitable situations, but while making sure that it’s not done to the detriment of pension plan conditions. We need to raise the bar, not lower the bar,” the Quebec Director concluded.
Paccar employs 1,400 Unifor members who manufacture Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks. The employer declared a lock-out on December 1st.