Southern Alberta Cargill workers reject company offer, strike possible Dec. 6

CALGARY –

The union representing workers at the Cargill meat processing plant near High River, Alta. has predominantly rejected the employer’s contract offer, and workers have voted for strike in early December.

In a release, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 says 98 percent of members have voted for job action if an agreement is not reached by December 6th.

“These workers have been through hell. They want a fair deal, and what Cargill has offered does not meet that threshold. In short, Cargill needs to do better,” said union secretary Treasurer Richelle Stewart.

There are an estimated 2,000 workers at the factory, about half of whom got COVID-19 on top of the first wave in the spring of 2020. Two employees died, as well as the father of one worker.

CTV News has contacted UFCW officials regarding the details of the latest offer and why it was rejected.

‘WE ARE TIRED’

A Cargill employee approached CTV reporters Thursday morning, expressing anger and frustration at both the union and his employer for dealing with the pandemic, health and safety issues and contract negotiations.

“We are tired. We are tired of Cargill not listening to us, but we are also tired of the union not listening to us,” says Freddie Vasquez, who says he has been a cleaning assistant at the facility for four years.

“We should be out on strike right now.”

Vazquez says the proposed pay rises and pandemic bonus are not enough.

“(The company) kept saying that we are essential and we appreciate you, thank you for feeding Canadian families. “We kept hearing all this during the pandemic, and then they decide to hit us in the face with $ 4.50?” He said.

“We are crazy. People are willing to strike.”

Job action can affect supply and prices at grocery stores’ meat counters, as the place processes an estimated 35 percent of Canada’s meat supply.

Cargill issued a statement Thursday morning calling the High River plant “one of the best workforces in all of Canada.”

“And our proposals reflect their enormous skill and dedication. Unfortunately, we have yet to reach agreement,” it read. “We remain optimistic that we can reach an agreement before the deadline (December 6). We are willing to keep meeting to avoid any work interruption that is not in anyone’s best interest in an already challenging time. .

“As we navigate this negotiation, we will continue to focus on fulfilling orders from food producers, retail and food service customers while keeping the markets going for farmers and ranchers. If necessary, we will move production to other facilities within our broad supply chain footprint for to minimize any disruption. “

A potential strike in December could also come at a time when supply chain problems have already affected consumer prices.

This is a development story. It will be updated during the day …

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