Strike looms at one of Canada’s largest beef-processing plants as Cargill workers vote against offer

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A union representing workers at the Cargill Meat-Packing Plant near High River, Alta., says employees have rejected the company’s contract offer after two days of voting — due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. Middle.

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The prospect of a strike starting December 6 has left prairie ranchers to brace themselves, as the Cargill facility is estimated to process nearly a third of Canada’s beef.

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United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 said workers rejected the company’s offer by a margin of 98 percent.

The union says workers have raised health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, but at the same time want better benefits, wage increases and faster movement to new jobs.

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Earlier, the union had given a strike notice, warning that workers would be on the picket line on 6 December if the requested changes were not made.

Last year, the meat-packing plant was the site of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak, linked to three deaths and positive tests among an additional 950 workers – nearly half the workforce – and hundreds of family and community members. Another outbreak in 2021 resulted in dozens of cases.

“Cargill employees have told their employers through another overwhelming vote that they matter and they deserve something more,” Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401, said in a statement.

“We will inform Kargil of the outcome and ask them to return to the bargaining table to answer to our members.”

The union said that though Kargil union members have expressed their anger and dismay, they are ready to strike a deal.

Kargil replied

Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said Thursday that the company remains optimistic that an agreement will be reached before the December 6 deadline.

“We stand ready to continue meeting to avoid any labor disruption that is not in anyone’s interest during this already challenging time,” read an emailed statement.

“While we navigate this conversation, we continue to focus on fulfilling food manufacturer, retail and food service customer orders while advancing markets for farmers and ranchers. If necessary, we will ramp up production on our own. Will move to other facilities within the wider supply chain footprint to minimize any disruption.”

Ranchers fear another cattle-processing backlog

Melanie Woake, a rancher and chair of Alberta Beef Producers, told businesshala News in mid-November that the prospect of a strike deeply worries farmers, who have been battling drought, rising feed costs and pandemic-related disruptions over the past two years. For a massive cattle backlog.

He fears the strike at the Kargil plant will lead to another cattle backlog, pointing to what people experienced last year when the pandemic temporarily shut down meat processing plant,

Processing disruptions in North America pushed meat prices higher at grocery stores, but had the opposite effect on the supply chain, where a cattle backlog emerged,

Cattle farmers say cattle prices are neither keeping pace with the rising prices nor with the beef prices seen in grocery stores recently.

They are also trying to manage the consequences of this summer’s drought that affected pasture lands and helped Dramatically increase the cost of fodder for farmers,

Experts have suggested Up to 20 percent of Canada’s cattle herd could be sold this fall and winter as producers are forced to reduce their herd sizes or go out of business.

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