More than 95 per cent of employees voted in favour of a strike
By Diego Flammini
Employees at Cargill’s High River, Alta. processing plant voted to strike if the company doesn’t bring a fair offer to the negotiating table.
More than 1,400 unionized employees participated in a strike vote on Nov. 4. This represents about 75 per cent of the workers at the plant, United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 401 said.
Of the employees who voted, “97 per cent of Cargill union members voted in favour of strike action if the company does not make them a fair offer, sending Cargill an overwhelming message,” the union said.
The previous collective agreement between employees and Cargill expired at the end of 2020. Negotiations on a new agreement started in March.
The provincial government appointed a mediator to assist with the negotiations.
But UFCW asked the mediator to leave after one day so it could move forward with a strike vote.
“You don’t try to make mediation work by proposing changes to benefits that will cost workers more money,” Devin Yeager, lead negotiator, said in UFCW’s statement. “That is exactly what Cargill did on the very first day.”
UFCW has outlined three additional improvements Cargill needs to address:
- New hires need to be placed on the job quickly,
- Offer reasonable wage increases, and
- Address COVID-related health and safety concerns.
The plant in High River, which accounts for almost 40 per cent of national beef production, closed on April 20, 2020 for 14 days after a COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak caused three deaths.
More negotiations are planned for this week.
The two sides are prepared to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday for further discussion.
“As an employer who leads with our value to put people first, it will always be our goal to be a supportive employer and key corporate partner to the High River community,” Cargill told Farms.com in a statement. “We are engaging in regular discussions with the Union and are scheduled to meet again on November 9 and 10. We remain optimistic that we can come to the table and reach an agreement.”
Farms.com has contacted members of Alberta’s livestock sector for comment on the situation.