Unionized employees at Cargill’s High River, Alta., processing plant will vote on a new bargaining agreement beginning December 2nd, and ending on December 4th.
“We are encouraged by the outcome of yesterday’s (Nov. 30) meeting with the union bargaining committee representing our High River team,” a Cargill spokesperson said in a Dec. 1 email to RealAgriculture.
The company and the UFCW Local 401 reached an agreement on an offer that the union bargaining committee will now bring to its members.
Cargill says the offer is comprehensive and fair and includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses, a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract, and improved health benefits.
“We remain optimistic we can reach a deal before the strike deadline and encourage employees to vote on this offer which recognizes the important role they play in Cargill’s work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way. While we navigate this negotiation, we continue to focus on fulfilling food manufacturer, retail and food service customer orders while keeping markets moving for farmers and ranchers,” the spokesperson says.
As for the UFCW, in an email to members, it describes Cargill’s new offer as “a dramatic improvement from the offer that union members saw last week… If ratified, the offer would be the best food processing contract in Canada, thanks entirely to the strength and determination of Cargill union members in seeking justice.”
The UFCW representing the workers rejected an earlier offer in a vote that wrapped up November 24th, ahead of the December 6th strike deadline. Cargill responded by serving the union a lockout notice on November 25, 2021. At the time, both parties said they would continue discussions and negotiations.
Unlike the previous vote, the union is not telling its members to vote against the offer.
“Personally, I have mixed feelings about this,” UFCW Local 401 President Thomas Hesse says. “Our members may or may not accept the offer. If they don’t, I’ll join them on the picket lines in solidarity and on strike. If they do accept it, I’ll work with them every day to make Cargill a better workplace.”
The Cargill High River plant accounts for more than a third of Canadian beef processing capacity.