Cargill workers to vote on new offer days before strike

Cargill workers to vote on new offer days before strike

Dec 1, Reuters -- Workers at Cargill Inc's beef-processing plant in High River, Alberta, one of Canada's largest, will vote on a new company offer backed by union negotiators just days before a potential strike, the company said on Wednesday.

The plant processes up to 4,500 head of cattle per day, or 35% of Canada's beef-processing capacity. The plant's roughly 2,000 workers will strike on Monday if there is a deal in place, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers UFCW Union Local 401.

After the two sides held talks on Tuesday, the UFCW's bargaining committee agreed to recommend the new offer to its members, Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said. The vote will take place on Thursday through Saturday.

A spokesman for the UFCW said he would make a statement later in the day.

Safety concerns have been raised by workers. In 2020, COVID 19 hit the High River plant hard, killing more than 900 workers. Three deaths have been linked to the outbreak, which forced Cargill to temporarily close the plant.

Outbreaks have hit other North American meat plants, where employees are often in close quarters.

Cargill's offer includes a wage increase, improved health benefits and retroactive pay, Sullivan said.

Sullivan said in an email that they remain optimistic that they can reach a deal before the strike deadline.

Workers voted 98% against Cargill's previous offer last week. UFCW had recommended rejection.

A plant shutdown would ripple through North America's beef and cattle supply chain.

Brian Perillat, senior analyst at CanFax said that more slaughter-ready cattle would have to stay longer at feedlots, incurring additional expense for those farmers.

The US retail ground beef prices were up 16% from a year ago, at an average of about $4.87 a pound, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.