Cargill optimistic it can avoid job action as meat plant workers vote 97% in favour of strike

One of Canada’s biggest beef processing plants is optimistic it will reach an agreement with the union representing its workers in High River, Alta.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 has served strike notice to Cargill, the company that operates the facility south of Calgary.

The union says 97 per cent of workers who voted support going on strike if a deal isn’t reached by Dec. 6.

Read more: Potential strike action looms at High River Cargill meat-packing plant

In a news release, UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse said workers want respect, recognition, a safe workplace, and fair compensation and will not only strike, but also call for a beef boycott if their demands aren’t met.

“There may be picketing and leafleting in front of other workplaces if they sell Cargill products. Albertans may even be confronted by picketing Cargill workers as they approach the drive-thru at McDonald’s.”

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Cargill spokesman Dan Sullivan hopes it doesn’t come to that.

In a written statement, he said, “We greatly value our employees and the work they do to feed Canadians. Over the last 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.”

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In the meantime, the company says it is putting contingency plans in place in case of a supply disruption.

“We are in communication with our cattle suppliers about contingency plans should they be necessary. As we navigate this negotiation, we will continue to focus on fulfilling food manufacturer, retail and food service customer orders. We will shift production to other facilities within our broad supply chain footprint to minimize disruptions to our product delivery if necessary.”

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The High River plant processes about 4,500 head of cattle a day — more than one-third of Canada’s beef-packing capacity.

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