Cargill Reaches Deal With Union To Avert Strike At Alberta Meat Plant

U.S. meatpacking giant Cargill has reached a tentative deal with the union representing 2,000 workers at Canada’s largest beef processing plant, averting a strike that had threatened to disrupt the country’s meat supply.

The tentative agreement includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses and a 21% wage increase over the life of the contract for unionized workers at Cargill’s beef processing plant in High River, Alberta.

The agreement, negotiated as a December 6 strike deadline loomed, needs to be approved by the workers in a union vote scheduled from Thursday through Saturday of this week.

The Cargill facility accounts for 40% of Canadian beef processing capacity, so any potential labour impasse could have disrupted the nation’s meat supply when beef prices are already soaring amid supply chain issues are growing worse.

The previous contract offer, which included a 19% wage hike over the course of the five-year contract plus a one-time bonus of $1,200 was rejected on November 24 by union members.

If ratified, the offer will be the best food processing contract in Canada. The tentative agreement includes retroactive pay up to $4,200 for many workers, and more than $8,000 worth of possible bonuses, the union said in a written statement.

Workers at the Alberta plant have complained about pandemic health and safety protocols 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 Canadian unit to import beef to meet its needs.

The latest impasse came as workers across North America are flexing their bargaining power as a labour squeeze has left businesses struggling to hire and retain staff. A monthlong strike at Deere & Co.’s (NYSE:DE) U.S. plants ended in November after about 10,000 unionized workers accepted a contract that significantly boosted their pay and retirement benefits.