Workers had planned go to on strike Dec. 6
By Diego Flammini
Unionized employees at Cargill’s processing facility in High River, Alta. have voted in favour of the company’s latest contract offer, avoiding a strike in the process.
Of the nearly 2,000 employees United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 represents at the plant, 71 per cent supported the company’s proposal after three days of voting.
The two sides had reached the tentative agreement last Tuesday and voted between Thursday and Saturday.
Had the vote gone the other way, Cargill employees would have gone on strike beginning the morning of Dec. 6. Tents, heaters and other supplies were already at the facility preparing for the strike to start.
The acceptance of the contract marks the end of a challenging chapter in the employees’ history, said Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401.
“At times over the last number of months, workers have felt helpless. Chaos has swirled about and it often felt like workers have been treated like lightbulbs – you burn out and the forces of greed and power simply screw in another bulb,” he said in a statement. “But our members, have shown that the vulnerability of the individual is overcome by the strength of the many.”
The new contract includes:
- Up to $2,400 in retroactive pay for some union members
- A $1,000 signing bonus
- A $1,000 COVID-19 bonus
- A $5.00 wage increase
- A 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the six-year contract
- Improved health benefits for workers and families.
Cargill representatives are happy the union accepted the contract.
The deal reflects the importance of the employees to the company’s operations, said Jarrod Gillig, Cargill North America’s business operations and supply chain president.
“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,” he told Farms.com in a statement.
Despite the Cargill employees receiving a new deal, more labour challenges could be on the horizon for the livestock processing sector.
UFCW Local 401 will represent about 2,500 workers at the JBS plant in Brooks, Alta. as those two sides enter contract talks.
“In the new year, we head into bargaining for their new contract,” Hesse said.
Farms.com has contacted industry groups for comment on the Cargill vote outcome.