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Group of Marmot Basin workers vote to unionize

Following the unanimous vote, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 now plans to head to the bargaining table at the end of March.
Marmot Basin is an alpine ski resort located on Marmot Mountain in Jasper National Park. | File photo

A group of 39 workers at Marmot Basin will soon be negotiating a first contract after voting unanimously to unionize in January.

Employed in ski patrol, ski dispatch, snow farming and avalanche control, the 39 workers are now members of Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) with the certificate issued on Jan. 17.

“I feel like the workers reached out to us for the same reasons a lot of workers – and especially right now – are: they’re feeling the real hit of the affordability crisis,” said Chris O’Halloran, executive director of UFCW Local 401.

“They’re seeing their bills go up, they’re seeing their cost of living go up, they’re seeing their ability to live the same lifestyle they enjoy go down and they’re not seeing their employer respond to that in a way that’s going to make it easier for them to try and do this.”

Owned by RMSI-JTAC Equipment Holdings LP, Marmot Basin is an alpine ski resort located on Marmot Mountain in Jasper National Park.

Marmot Basin did not respond to a request for comment before publish time.

O’Halloran described the 39 resort workers as “exceptionally connected and well organized,” noting that they had gone to the employer with a detailed proposal to address some of their issues, but this strategy was not fruitful.

“So, they took the next logical step that most workers see when they don’t get a response from their employer [saying] that they’re going to look to help and address any of their issues, and they contacted us as the union and now we’re in place to be able to help them do that.”

On April 18, 2023, UFCW Local 401 applied for certification to the Alberta Labour Relations Board.

However, the application was held up due to an administrative issue related to the electronic method of confirming the petition’s signatories.

The Board Officers’ reports had recommended that this application, along with two others, be dismissed because the electronic petition did not include a witness name or witness signature for each petitioner.

O’Halloran asserted that the Alberta Labour Relations Board had previously been willing to certify and use digital petitions on five previous union membership applications.

“We were able to, through the help of legal counsel, win that fight, and fortunately for us, the workers have stayed strong,” he added.

“They have stayed supportive, and they stayed aware of what’s going on.”

Following the unanimous vote, UFCW Local 401 now plans to head to the bargaining table at the end of March.

This is the first time UFCW Local 401 will be representing ski hill workers with the ski patrollers being a unique aspect.

“A lot of the safety things are gonna be very similar to EMS or paramedics or first responders that we’ve represented in other workplaces,” O’Halloran said.

“But the truly unique piece of this is the avalanche end of it, some of those extra safety things that you just wouldn't experience anyplace outside of a ski hill or ski resort.”

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