New Brunswick Tribune

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Cargill’s High River beef-processing plant barely avoids protest action

Strike action is narrowly avoided at the Cargill beef-processing plant

Key takeaways:

  • On Saturday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 stated that 71 percent of workers approved the new contract offer.

Employees at Cargill’s beef-processing factory in High River, Alta., narrowly avoided strike action and a possible lockout by voting to favor a new labor contract.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 (UFCW), which represents workers at the company, announced on Saturday that 71 percent of workers voted in favor of the new contract offer.

The UFCW stated that the decision was not easy for the workers at the facility, adding that the contract vote was a “bittersweet win.”

Also read: 77 New Covid-19 cases are being reported as the province prepares to change its rules

After a COVID-19 epidemic at the facility in 2020, which affected over 900 people, workers voiced safety concerns. 3 people have died due to the outbreak, which forced Cargill to temporarily close the factory, which is one of Canada’s largest.

According to the union, the new contract contains processes to safeguard worker health and safety and perks and expanded sick leave entitlements.

ACCORDING TO CARGILL SPOKESPERSON DANIEL SULLIVAN, the UFCW’s bargaining committee agreed to recommend the new offer to its members after the two parties met on Tuesday. Between Thursday and Saturday, workers cast ballots.

The union leaked parts of the potential offer to CBC earlier this week. Many Cargill union members received $4,200 in retroactive compensation, signing, holiday, and COVID-19 bonuses, as well as a $5 wage rise.

Unless a deal is reached, the plant’s nearly 2,000 workers will go on strike Monday, according to the UFCW.

Cargill issues lockout notice to staff at one of Canadas largest beef-processing  plants
Cargill issues lockout notice to staff at one of Canadas largest beef-processing plants. Image from CBC News

In preparation for a probable strike, the union brought tents, floodlights, and heaters while neighboring fields were leveled to accommodate parking.

According to a statement from Cargill’s vice-president of labor relations, Tanya Teeter, which was seized and made public by the union, the business planned to lock out all UFCW union employees as of 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Jarrod Gillig, the company’s president of business operations and supply chain for North America protein, said in a statement to CBC Saturday, “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that is comprehensive, fair, and reflective of their commitment to excellence at Cargill and the critical role they play in feeding families across Canada.”

“As an organization that leads with our philosophy of putting people first, we sincerely feel this ratification is in our employees’ best interests, and we are excited to go forward to build a stronger future — together.”

Reforms are still required: Union

In a statement released Saturday, UFCW President Thomas Hesse said, “We also look forward to the residents of Alberta joining us in advocating for changes and restructuring in the meatpacking business.”

“Workers have been taken advantage of. Ranchers have been taken advantage of. And we’ve all been conned at the supermarket checkout line. The government, as well as Alberta ranchers and consumers, failed to protect these workers. Change is unavoidable.”

The Cargill operation can handle up to 4,500 cattle every day, accounting for almost one-third of all beef produced in Canada.

Source: CBC News

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