Author of the article:
Marcy Nicholson and Layan Odeh
(Bloomberg) — Union workers at a Cargill Inc. plant that accounts for about 40% of Canada’s beef supply have accepted a new labor contract, averting a strike that threatened to disrupt the nation’s meat market.
Employees of Cargill’s plant in High River, Alberta, voted 71% in favor of the contract offered by the U.S. agricultural giant, the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union Local 401 said in a statement Saturday. The agreement included a 21% wage increase over the life of the six-year deal, and was touted by the union as the best food processing contract in the country.
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The dispute threatened to disrupt Canada’s beef supply when food prices are already soaring within the country and around the world as labor crunches squeeze meatpackers and supply-chain snarls add to freight costs. Workers were set to strike on Dec. 6 if a deal wasn’t reached with Cargill.
The deal comes as workers across North America flex their bargaining power, bolstered by a labor squeeze that has left many businesses struggling to hire and retain staff.
The agreement includes as much as C$4,200 ($3,282.3) in retroactive pay and more than C$6,000 in total bonuses for many workers, according to the union. The previous contract offer, which included a 19% wage hike over the course of the contract, was rejected on Nov. 24 by the union members.
Meat workers have complained about pandemic health and safety after a Covid-19 outbreak last year sickened half of the plant’s staff and resulted in a temporary shutdown. The closure left thousands of cows awaiting slaughter on farm and prompted McDonald’s Corp.’s Canadian unit to import beef to meet its needs.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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