Cargill union members could go on strike after 98% rejected the contract offer

Article content

Unionized Cargill workers have voted overwhelmingly against the company’s latest contract offer, putting them in a position to strike as of Dec. 6.

Commercial

Article content

UFCW Local 401, the union representing about 2,400 workers at Cargill’s two meat processing and packing facilities in Alberta, said 98 percent of its workers rejected the offer. Near unanimous rejection shows need for employer to rebuild trust in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas Hesse, President of UFCW Local 401

Ultimately, it is counterintuitive for any worker to want to stand on the street, retire their job, take all the risks associated with that. That’s provoked, ”Hesse told Postmedia.

“Cargill has made some proposals and has come close, and I think the bargaining sessions will be held between now and December 6… (But) the workers can decide. If there is a substantial improvement offer, workers will be able to reflect on that and vote as well, perhaps before there is a strike. “

Commercial

Article content

The contentious labor dispute heated up two weeks ago when union leaders sent Cargill a notice that workers would go on strike on the picket line if a new collective bargaining agreement cannot be reached.

A strike would come as red meat prices approach record levels in North America amid global supply chain struggles. A closure at the High River facility would inject further uncertainty into that market, as that plant represents roughly 40 percent of Canada’s beef processing capacity, employs roughly 2,000 workers in two shifts, and processes about 4,500 head. of cattle daily.

Hesse said he believes the workers have public sympathy during the dispute, raising the possibility of a meat boycott if the workers go on strike.

Commercial

Article content

In an emailed statement, Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said the company is optimistic a deal can be reached before the December 6 deadline. He said the company’s proposal reflects the “tremendous skill and dedication” of the plant’s workers.

“We are willing to continue meeting to avoid any job disruption that is not in the best interest of anyone during an already difficult time,” Sullivan said.

“As we navigate this negotiation, we continue to focus on fulfilling customer orders from food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice, while keeping markets moving for farmers and ranchers. If necessary, we will move production to other facilities within our broad supply chain to minimize any disruption. “

Cargill’s High River plant was the site of one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada in the spring of 2020. Three deaths were related to that outbreak, and nearly half of the plant’s workers tested positive for the virus.

UFCW Local 401 also represents nearly 400 workers at Cargill’s Case Ready meat packing plant in Northeast Calgary.

Hesse said safety and compensation are issues for workers, but said the negotiation to date has been driven largely by excitement and conversations around trust.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

Commercial

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civilized discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour to moderate before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a response to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Leave a Comment

x