Alberta's Cargill meat plant workers vote to strike if concerns not met

·2 min read
Union representatives, and company officials at Cargill meat processing plant in High River, Alta., in 2020. Workers at Cargill’s High River plant continue to have COVID-19 related health and safety concerns, the United Food and Commercial Workers union said.  (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)
Union representatives, and company officials at Cargill meat processing plant in High River, Alta., in 2020. Workers at Cargill’s High River plant continue to have COVID-19 related health and safety concerns, the United Food and Commercial Workers union said. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)

A majority of union members at Cargill's Alberta meatpacking plant have voted to strike if worker requests are not met — among them, COVID-19 related health concerns.

Workers at Cargill's plant near High River, Alta., have brought up COVID-19 related health and safety concerns, a release from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 said Friday.

"They're angry, is the best way to describe it. They're furious … they have co-workers who died from exposure to COVID," said Scott Payne, Local 401 union labour relations officer.

"They continue to be scared to show up to work …They've been through so much."

Last year Cargill's meatpacking plant in High River was the site of a deadly outbreak. The southern Alberta plant saw three deaths.

An additional 950 workers and hundreds of family and community members tested positive for COVID-19 in relation to the outbreak. Another outbreak this year resulted in dozens of cases.

The union said that on Thursday, more than 1,400 Cargill union members participated in a strike vote, which is 75 per cent of workers at the plant.

Meanwhile, 97 per cent of Cargill union members voted in favour of strike action if the company does not make them a fair offer.

Name withheld
Name withheld

Workers are looking for the company to improve benefits, move workers who are awarded new jobs to those jobs quickly, address COVID-related health and safety concerns at the plant that workers have consistently brought up, and introduce reasonable wage increases.

The union says it is set to meet with Cargill next week to discuss further.

In a statement, a Cargill spokesperson said they are optimistic that both sides can come to the table and reach an agreement.

"As an employer who leads with our value to put people first, it will always be our goal to be a supportive employer and key corporate partner to the High River community. We are engaging in regular discussions with the union."

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