Understanding aggregate salary increases at Viterra and Nutrien

By GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner

Around this time each year, GSU receives numerous contacts from union members working for Nutrien and Viterra complaining that they received a salary increase that is lower than the X percent aggregate salary increase referred to in the collective agreements with their employer. 

While employees are justifiably upset that their salary increases are too low, it is important to remember that the collective agreements with Nutrien and Viterra refer to aggregate  salary increases of X percent.  

What this means is that the overall total salary increase must be the agreed upon percentage of payroll, but it does not mean that each individual employee will receive a salary increase equal to that percentage figure.

For example:

Imagine a work unit in which there are two employees and the employees in the unit are promised an aggregate salary increase of 2 percent. In this example employee “A” receives a salary increase of 3 percent and employee “B” receives a salary increase of 1 percent. While each employee received a salary increase different than 2 percent, the aggregate salary increase of the two-employee unit in this example is 2 percent (i.e. 3 + 1 divided by 2 = 2%).

This is one of the numerous bad features of the so-called pay for performance system that came as a plague on Viterra employees in 2008 and was adopted by Nutrien in 2013. GSU’s leadership vigorously warned about this negative feature of Viterra’s bargaining proposals and final offer at the time of the 2008 collective bargaining dispute and strike at Viterra.

In the absence of sufficient support to maintain the strike action commenced by Local 2 members of Viterra’s Regina head office, and a handful of Local 1 Viterra Operations and Maintenance members, GSU was not able to block the incursion of the so-called pay for performance pay system and its aggregate salary increase. Since then, GSU has proposed to end the unfair system whenever bargaining with Nutrien and Viterra, but so far we’ve not succeeded.

One day we will reform this broken pay system, but only if union members band together and make it a priority they are prepared to fight for, even if that means walking the picket line until the job is done.

Grievance update on storm stayed employees

On Nov. 9 a number of GSU Local 1 (Viterra) members were prevented from going to work as a result of a severe snow storm that affected communities in south west and west central Saskatchewan.

In response to inquiries from union members who missed work as a result of the snow storm, GSU intervened with Viterra management to urge use of pressing necessity leave to cover absences from work. After a couple meetings, Viterra declined to consider the absences as falling under pressing necessity leave. GSU commenced grievance action and the matter has now passed through Step 2 of the grievance procedure under GSU’s collective agreement with Viterra.

“Step 3 is the final meeting in the grievance procedure where yet another effort will be made to convince management to change their stance,” said GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner. “If the situation doesn’t change at Step 3, the next decision is whether to send the grievance to arbitration by a neutral arbitrator.”

“Although this grievance has moved slowly it is still better than the alternative of accepting the employer’s word as final,“ Wagner said. “Amongst many other advantages, being unionized means employees get to challenge, question, and test their employer’s response to real life situations.”

“While not every challenge or grievance is successful, the net impact is to make the workplace a little more democratic and highlight issues that need to be addressed at the agreement renewal bargaining table,” said Wagner.

Further updates will follow.

Local 1 (Viterra) delegates, Local 2 (Viterra Office) executive members meet, approve salary schedule changes, and elect officers

GSU Local 1 (Viterra Operations/Maintenance) delegates and the Local 2 (Viterra head office) executive committee members have agreed to a proposal from Viterra management to make modest increases to most of the minimums and maximums of the salary structures in the collective agreements covering country operations and maintenance and Regina head office employees.

The increases to the minimum salaries in the Local 1 collective agreement range from 1.17% to 2.46% while the increases to maximums range from zero to 2.51%. In the Local 2 collective agreement, increases to the minimum rates of pay range from 1.06% to 2.16% and increases to the maximum rates of pay range from zero to 2.16%. The changes, effective Jan. 1, 2021, were proposed by Viterra following a market survey conducted by their HR department.

“GSU is not about to say no to improvements to rates of pay no matter how modest, but at the same time we urged Viterra to give every employee a wage increase of at least 2.0% effective January 1,“ said GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner. “It was pointed out to management that the current so-called pay for performance system is grossly unfair and undervalues employees.”

“While making arguments for better pay in this situation, we are also aware that the collective agreement is not open for bargaining until the autumn of 2022,” Wagner said. “An examination of rates of pay shows there is a lot of work to do at the bargaining table and it will take a very strong push by GSU members to get rid of or reform the current pay system at the next round of bargaining.”

When the Local 1 delegates met on Jan.20 to discuss Viterra’s proposals, they also elected Jim Brown (Balgonie) and Gaylyn Kennedy (North Battleford) to be Local 1’s president and vice-president. Glenn Outram (Moose Jaw), Matt Denomie (Kindersley), and David Barrett (Gull Lake) were elected to the Local 1 executive committee.

GSU Local 2’s executive committee is comprised of Sheila Tran, Howard Wilson and Kaylee Kruger. They met and approved the changes to the salary ranges on Jan. 22.

If you have questions, contact your GSU staff representative.

WE’RE WORKING ON IT: Executive Grievance for storm-stayed Viterra employees moving to Step 2

GSU’s executive grievance claiming pressing necessity leave for Viterra employees who were storm stayed on Nov. 9 is going to a Step 2 grievance meeting early in the new year.

“We attempted to convince the employer of the merits of the case without commencing formal grievance action, but ultimately it became necessary to follow the grievance route,” said GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner. “If a sewer back-up would qualify an employee for pressing necessity leave, why wouldn’t unpassable streets or unsafe driving conditions?”

GSU is aiming to hold the step two grievance meeting during the first week of January and report back here as matters unfold.

Questions? Contact your GSU staff rep.

GSU Locals 1 and 2 begin agreement renewal bargaining with Viterra [view bargaining proposals here]

View and download a copy of the union’s bargaining proposals here:
GSU Local 1 (Viterra Country Ops and Maintenance) and Local 2 (Viterra Head Office) bargaining proposals [Dec. 5, 2018]

GSU’s bargaining committee representing members of Local 1 (country operations and maintenance) and Local 2 (Regina head office) met with representatives of Viterra to begin agreement renewal bargaining on Dec. 5, 6 and 7, 2018.

The bargaining began with an exchange of proposals to amend and renew the collective agreements between GSU and Viterra. Explanation and initial comments on the respective bargaining proposals followed. On Dec. 7 the GSU bargaining committee met with senior representatives of the Viterra’s HR department to receive a presentation on management’s proposals for amending the structure of the pay plan and salary grades. Viterra has not yet disclosed its proposals for general wage increases.

The bargaining proposals for GSU Locals 1 and 2 can be viewed and downloaded here.

Bargaining is scheduled to resume on Jan. 15, 16, and 17, 2019.

The GSU bargaining committee for Locals 1 and 2 is comprised of Jim Brown (Balgonie), Brett North (Moose Jaw), Travis Brewer (Saskatoon), Wilfred Harris (Carnduff), Sheila Tran (Regina head office), Howard Wilson (Regina head office), GSU staff rep Donna Driediger and general secretary Hugh Wagner.

ANOTHER PROBLEM SOLVED: Local 1 (Viterra) employee requests payout of overtime

A Viterra employee requested that some of their banked overtime be paid out.  The employee’s manager denied the payout of the entire portion and suggested that time off be used for the remainder.  

Staff rep Dale Markling had previously addressed the same problem when the employee was experiencing the same issue and got the overtime paid out, and Dale was contacted when the same issue began happening again. Dale contacted Human Resources at Viterra and within the week the employee’s request to have banked overtime paid out was granted. 

Under the Viterra Collective Agreement, employees have the right to request payout of their overtime.

Do you have a question about your collective agreement or a problem you are experiencing in the workplace?

Contact your GSU staff rep. Contact information is available here.

Do you work for Viterra operations and maintenance, Viterra head office, or Richardson? Help us prepare for Autumn 2018 bargaining by completing this survey

GSU collective agreements covering members in Local 1 (Viterra Operations and Maintenance, Local 2 (Viterra Head Office, and Local 14 (Richardson) are coming open for agreement renewal bargaining this autumn.

Members in these locals are asked to help prepare by providing their input by completing the following survey.

The identity of union members who complete the survey will be kept strictly confidential.

Click here to begin the survey.


ANOTHER PROBLEM SOLVED: Do you know what conditions will apply when taking unused vacation immediately adjacent to retirement or other employment termination?


In December 2016 a long-service Local 1 (Viterra – Operations) member contacted GSU staff rep Dale Markling upon discovering his employment had been terminated when he decided to burn up a few days’ vacation immediately before retiring. The union member had told his boss about his intention to retire effective December 31, 2016, and when the date approached he arranged to be on vacation for the last few days. Even though he was on vacation, he still responded to work related calls.

The problem came to light when the member received his last pay stub. He discovered that Viterra considered his employment terminated as of his last day at work and his benefit coverage was discontinued. In addition, the member was not paid for Christmas Day and Boxing Day. He was surprised and unhappy.

When staff rep Dale Markling and general secretary Hugh Wagner raised the issue with Viterra management they were informed that employment termination in this type of situation was Company policy at least since mid-2008. Apparently Viterra had decided not to allow employees to use vacation as a bridge to retirement or other terminations of employment. GSU had no prior knowledge and had never been informed of this policy by Viterra. 

An executive grievance was filed on behalf of members in Locals 1 and 2. After several grievance meetings, the grievance was resolved on May 12. Viterra agreed to pay the member who had raised the issue for two general/statutory holidays and also agreed that nothing shall alter an employee’s status as an employee of the Company in instances where the employee takes vacation by mutual agreement and/or with the approval of her/his superior.

Even though this matter has been resolved for members of GSU Locals 1 and 2, we encourage all members regardless of their employer, including Viterra, to make absolutely sure what conditions apply when deciding to take unused vacation immediately adjacent to and leading into retirement or other employment termination. 

If you would like assistance, call a GSU rep.

Staff rep services are provided to you as part of your union dues. There is no additional charge for assisting you. Contact information for GSU staff reps is available here

Glencore confirms interest, takeover pitch for U.S. grain trader Bunge Ltd.

A Glencore takeover of Bunge would make Glencore a major player in the agricultural market and break dominance of the industry by Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., Bunge, Cargill Inc. and Louis Dreyfus Co.

Learn more here: 


Ballots counted – Locals 1 and 2 (Viterra) settlements approved

The ballots cast by GSU members have been counted and the tentative agreement renewal bargaining settlements reached between Viterra and GSU on April 15, 2016 have been approved by a majority of union members who voted.

Steps will now be taken to amend the two collective agreements based on the terms of the bargaining settlement. As soon as that work is completed GSU will arrange for printing of collective agreement booklets for distribution to union members.

Thank you to all who voted and offered comments about the settlement. Thank you to GSU’s bargaining committee and staff for their hard work, and thank you to Viterra management for accommodating the GSU vote in the country operations and maintenance workplaces.

Background information: