Workers will strike Dec. 6 if the company and union can’t reach an agreement
By Diego Flammini
The union representing employees at a meat processing plant responsible for about 40 per cent of Canadian beef production have set a strike deadline.
Workers at Cargill’s processing facility in High River, Alta. will go on strike Dec. 6 if the company and United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 401 can’t come to an agreement on a new contract.
Cargill is “big and they’re bad, but we’re not afraid,” Local President Thomas Hesse said in a Nov. 11 statement.
Setting the date came after 97 per cent of workers voted Nov. 4 in favour of a strike should the company fail to bring a fair offer to the negotiating table.
Employees want “respect, recognition, a safe workplace, and fair compensation,” the union’s Nov. 11 release says.
And if Cargill fails to provide those things, the union may ask consumers to stop eating beef.
“A boycott of the beef industry itself is a possibility,” the release says. “Consumers could be asked to avoid the consumption of beef until Cargill workers are treated fairly.”
Production disruptions could lead to higher prices.
But only Albertans would see prices rise, said Moe Agostino, chief commodity strategist with Farms.com Risk Management.
“What happens in Alberta would only impact local prices,” he said.
Less beef could result in opportunities for other meat products.
“Consumers have options, you have the meat trifecta with chicken and pork and they can go pick another type of meat,” Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, told CTV News.
Cargill is optimistic the two sides can come to an agreement before the Dec. 6 deadline.
The company has offered wage increases, cash bonuses and enhanced benefits.
“We believe that our proposal is very fair and representative of our values to put people first and do the right thing,” a company statement said, CTV News reported.
Farms.com has contacted Cargill and industry groups for comment.
Farms.com has also contacted Alberta Labour Minister Tyler Shandro’s office for comment on the possibility of back to work legislation should the strike continue for an extended period of time