Halifax-based Java Blend, union sign first collective agreement

A Java Blend worker dispenses coffee beans at the North Street location. (Andrew Sampson/CBC - image credit)
A Java Blend worker dispenses coffee beans at the North Street location. (Andrew Sampson/CBC - image credit)

Java Blend Coffee Limited workers have signed their first collective agreement with the Halifax-based company.

The agreement comes a year after staff voted to join Service Employees International Union Local 2 and months after a union-led boycott against the company following the termination of nine workers in January.

The boycott ended in May after the company provided the union with its financial statements to explain its reasons for the layoffs.

The collective agreement was reached after four days of negotiations and ratified by the union Thursday night.

The terms of the new agreement include pay increases, paid sick leave with the ability to bank some days, bereavement leave and health benefits.

The agreement also includes provisions for the employees still on the recall list following the layoffs to be rehired in order of seniority.

Some workers set to return

Emily Kristensen, one of the lead organizers of the union drive, is on the list and said she is slated to be the first person rehired.

Kristensen said the company's financial situation was taken into account during the negotiations.

"We were shocked how amazing the employer was in agreeing to most of our things," she said.

"We couldn't give everyone the big raises that we would have liked to, and we actually had to kind of modify the annual increase structure to make it more or less sustainable for Java Blend long-term."

Co-owner Alex Lee said the company's financial situation is still precarious but there is optimism it will recover.

He said the agreement with the union will make planning easier. "Hopefully, with the collective agreement in place we will be able to budget better."

Meanwhile, Kristensen said the employees' fight has inspired workers across Canada and will encourage them to unionize as well.

She said being the first fully unionized coffee roaster in Halifax is an impressive feat and will help the company's brand image in the future.