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.
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.