Canadian beef plant votes on Cargill offer ahead of strike

The plant processes up to 4,500 head of cattle per day
calendar icon 2 December 2021
clock icon 2 minute read

Workers at Cargill Inc's beef-processing plant in High River, Alberta, one of Canada's largest, will vote on a new company offer backed by union negotiators. The agreement was reached just days before a potential strike, reported Reuters

The plant processes up to 4,500 head of cattle per day, or 35% of Canada's beef-processing capacity. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 401 said the plant's roughly 2,000 workers were set to strike on Monday unless a deal was in place.

After the two sides held talks on last Tuesday, UFCW's bargaining committee agreed to recommend the new offer to its members, Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said. The vote took place Thursday through Saturday.

Workers have raised safety concerns. COVID-19 hit the High River plant hard in 2020, sickening more than 900 workers. The outbreak, which forced Cargill to temporarily close the plant, is linked to three deaths.

Outbreaks have hit other North American meat plants, where employees often work in close quarters.

Cargill's offer includes a wage increase, improved health benefits and retroactive pay, Sullivan said, without providing details.

"We remain optimistic we can reach a deal before the strike deadline," Sullivan said in an email.

Workers voted 98% against Cargill's previous offer. UFCW had recommended rejection.

A plant shutdown would quickly ripple through North America's beef and cattle supply chain.

More slaughter-ready cattle would have to stay longer at feedlots, incurring extra expense for those farmers, said Brian Perillat, senior analyst at CanFax.

Source: Reuters

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