RIO ALTO, Alta. – The threat of a strike at an Alberta beef processing plant was averted after workers accepted the owner’s latest offer.
The union that represents about 2,000 workers at Cargill’s High River meat plant says its members have voted 71 percent to accept the company’s contract.
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In a statement, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 401 says the contract is “the best of its kind and delivered unprecedented gains at this time of economic and political uncertainty.”
It also says it was reached “during the greatest health crisis the world has ever seen.”
Jarrod Gillig, president of business operations and supply chain for Cargill’s North American protein business, says the deal is “complete” and “fair,” adding that it reflects the “commitment to excellence” of its employees.
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A company spokesperson had previously said the deal offered a six-year collective agreement that includes back pay, signing bonuses, a 21 percent pay increase over the life of the contract and better health benefits.
“As an organization that leads with our value of putting people first, we truly believe that this endorsement is in the best interest of our employees and we look forward to moving forward to build a stronger future, together,” Gillig said in a statement Saturday. .
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Cargill optimistic it can avoid labor action as meat plant workers vote 97% in favor of strike
Workers voted 98 percent last month against Cargill’s previous offer, and the union had said workers would go on strike if a contractual agreement could not be reached.
Cargill and the union had been at odds for some time over issues related to wages, as well as health and safety.
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In May 2020, Cargill’s High River plant was the site of a major workplace-related COVID-19 outbreak. More than 900 workers tested positive for the virus and three deaths were related to the outbreak.
“A victory has been earned and this is a day to celebrate,” said a statement from UFCW Local 401, which recommended acceptance of the contract offer.
“The injustices at Cargill, however, are not corrected by the contract. Local 401 and its activists look to the future to enforce the new rights of Cargill workers in this unprecedented collective bargaining agreement. “
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The agreement also gives workers a $ 1,000 signing bonus and a $ 1,000 “COVID-19” bonus, the union previously said.
The union statement noted that it had made extensive preparations for a strike. He said tents were erected in front of the plant, propane light bulbs and heaters were brought in, nearby fields were leveled so hundreds of workers could park, and the picket payroll system was nearly complete.
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The statement also noted that in Brooks, Alta., 2,500 employees who process beef at the JBS plant are closely watching Cargill’s precedent. In the new year, the union said it will head to negotiate a new contract.
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