HIGH RIVER, ALBERTA – Cargill officials provided details from its latest negotiations with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401 on Nov. 30, as both sides work toward avoiding a strike at the company’s High River, Alberta, beef processing plant.
“After a long day of collaborative discussion, we reached an agreement on an offer that the bargaining committee will recommend to its members,” said Daniel Sullivan, spokesperson from Cargill. “The offer is comprehensive and fair and includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses, a 21% wage increase over the life of the contract and improved health benefits.”
Cargill said the employees would vote on the agreement from Dec. 2-4. The company recently served a Dec. 7 lockout notice for union employees before this meeting was held.
“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,” Sullivan added. “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.”
In previous proposals presented to the union, members have overwhelmingly rejected offers from Cargill.
Before the most recent negotiations on Nov. 30, UFCW said on its Facebook page that Cargill was securing busses for strikebreakers. Although is not allowed in some provinces of Canada, in Alberta, strikebreaking is legal.
“We continue bargaining with Cargill in the hopes that a new contract can be settled and that Cargill employees can get a fair and reasonable deal,” UFCW said on Facebook. “But it is also important to continue preparing for a potential strike with our eyes wide open, seeing the risks and realities of that path clearly.”
UFCW is negotiating for improved pay and worker conditions at the plant following COVID-19 outbreaks during the last two years. In April 2020, the facility temporarily stopped operations after close to 1,000 cases of COVID-19 were linked to the plant.