As most of you have heard by either watching the news or reading the local paper, a major food employer, Albertsons, is laying off workers again. This is the second layoff in just the past few months and one of several in the last few years. So, as you all can imagine, the question of how seniority works in case of a layoff, has been on the mind of our membership in all the companies that we represent in the food industry.
Seniority is covered in Article 4 of the Master Food Agreement covering Albertsons, Ralph’s and Vons. It is in the same Article (4) in the Staters and Gelsons Agreements. In the Food 4 Less Agreement you can find the language in Article 3.
Seniority commences with the date of hire with the company; however when an employee moves to a higher classification or is promoted, a new seniority date is established as the date of assignment to that new classification. For layoff purposes, an employee can bump back to his former classification carrying with him his total seniority. Should a layoff or reduction of hours occur, where the newly assigned (less senior) employee is to be replaced or reduced, such employee shall be permitted to reclaim the former vacated, or equivalent position entitled to by the combined seniority in the old and new classifications.
When a layoff or reduction occurs, the company is required to abide by the seniority rules established in your contract. You will be allowed to exercise your seniority first within the store and then within the established company district. For Meat Department employees, your seniority will also be recognized on a company wide basis within the jurisdictional boundaries of the Union. For all employees, except those in the Meat Department, your seniority is limited to the district that your store is assigned to. Therefore, you do not have the ability to exercise a bump across district lines during a layoff. It is possible that the hire dates that the layoffs will affect may vary from district to district.
Your seniority also is important for reinstatement to your former position when business improves and the company needs to add employees. The last employee laid off, or reduced, shall be given the first opportunity to reinstatement in their former position when it becomes available. Seniority rights for the purposes of recall are the time equivalent to the employees’ seniority but in no event to exceed twelve (12) months.
There are some positions, such as Department Head, Person-In-Charge (P.I.C.), Receiver, Scan Coordinator and Bookkeeper that require special “skills and ability” and may be protected during a layoff. Should you have questions regarding your rights during a layoff, we encourage you to contact your union representative or the union office.