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Cargill workers at Foothills plant ready to strike

The union representing Cargill employees served the company with a notice to strike on Nov. 10 in Calgary.
The union representing Cargill employees served the company with a notice to strike on Nov. 10 in Calgary. (Western Wheel File Photo)

Workers will hit the picket lines next month if a deal can’t be made with the Cargill meat-processing plant north of High River.

Union representatives said an overwhelming 97 per cent of voting members endorsed strike action on the heels of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak last year.
Notice was served to Cargill’s vice-president of labour Tanya Teeter on Nov. 10 stating if a new agreement can’t be made, workers will strike as of Dec. 6.
UFCW Local 401 representatives say employees are calling for respect, recognition, a safe workplace and fair compensation.

Union representatives said about 85 per cent of the employees they represent still have concerns about COVID-19, even though the majority of workers are fully vaccinated.

In the strike notice, union president Thomas Hesse wrote he anticipates the company will come to the table and bargain in good faith to come to a new collective agreement satisfactory to its members.

“Over the past two days, our company and the union representing employees at our High River protein facility have exchanged multiple comprehensive proposals that included increased wages well beyond the industry standard, enhanced employee benefits and cash bonuses for active employees,” a company statement reads.

“We believe that our proposal is very fair and representative of our values to put people first and do the right thing.”

Spokesman Daniel Sullivan said while an agreement hasn’t been made yet, Cargill remains optimistic that one can be made by the strike deadline.

The plant near High River employs 2,000 people and processes up to 4,500 head of cattle per day, according to the company’s website.

A strike could be accompanied by other actions, the union said.

“A boycott of the beef industry itself is a possibility,” the statement reads. “Albertans may even be confronted by picketing Cargill workers as they approach the drive-thru at McDonald’s.”

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