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Workers at Alberta Processing Plant Reject Company Offer

Workers at a major Alberta processing plant could be off the job in a matter of days after overwhelmingly rejecting a management contract offer.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 rejected the offer by a 98% margin on Wednesday evening, following two days of voting. Unless a deal is hammered out in the meantime, workers at the Cargill plant – which processes up to one-third of Canadian beef – could be on strike as early as Dec. 6.

“In the shadow of Cargill workers’ demands, we’re optimistic that Cargill can bring an acceptable offer to our members and avert a strike before the deadline,” said UFCW Local 401 President Thomas Hesse. “But make no mistake, if it comes to a strike, our union will stand with Cargill workers for as long as it takes.”

Although Cargill union members have expressed their anger and frustration, “they remain ready to make a deal,” the union said in a statement Thursday.

“No one ever wants to go on strike,” said Secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart. “But these workers have been through hell. They want a fair deal and what Cargill has offered does not meet that threshold. Simply put, Cargill needs to do better.”

Workers are seeking improved COVID-19 safety measures, along with better wages and benefits. Last year, a COVID-19 outbreak at the Cargill plant impacted a major portion of the workforce. There was a second outbreak at the plant earlier this year.

Processing plant slowdowns and temporary shutdowns during the pandemic resulted in major backlogs of cattle that negatively impacted prices. Melanie Wowk, a rancher and chair at Alberta Beef Producers, told CBC News earlier this month that cattle producers fear a strike at the Cargill plant may result in renewed backlogs.

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