Cargill, union reach settlement agreement as strike enters second month

Cargill, union reach settlement agreement as strike enters second month

Progress has been made in the ongoing strike at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in Guelph, Ontario.

The union representing the workers announced Tuesday that they have reached a new recommended settlement proposal with the company.

Information sessions to discuss the deal begin on Friday, with the vote on ratification taking place on Saturday at the Royal Canadian Legion at 57 Watson Parkway South.

Meanwhile, the union said workers will remain on the picket line.

CTV News reached out to Cargill for their response. In an email, they said their focus is on “ending this (labor) disruption and welcoming our employees back to work.”

Nearly 1,000 members protest

The strike began just over five weeks ago, with workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions.

According to a May 26 press release, 82 percent of union members voted to reject the previously negotiated settlement.

The next day at 12:01 a.m., nearly 1,000 members were on the picket line.

The union said it raised a number of issues at the bargaining table, including the increased cost of living and the $2-an-hour pandemic wage that the union says was eliminated during the pandemic.

“Our members at Cargill Dunlop are an integral part of a vital supply chain that keeps food on people’s tables every day,” Kelly Tosato, president of UFCW Local 175, told CTV News in May. “The decision to strike is never easy, but these members are not satisfied with what the company has brought to the table. And we will stand with them until their Union Negotiating Committee can reach a deal that reflects the nature of their hard work and dedication to creating quality food products that feed hundreds of thousands of people.”

Cattle farmers express concerns

As the strike enters its second month, a southern Ontario cattle producer voiced the industry’s growing concerns.

“We were hoping it would be resolved fairly quickly,” Joe Hill told CTV News in June. “I’m not sure a lot of us thought we’d still be sitting here at the end of June looking at that (Guelph) plant that’s closed.”

According to Hill, farmers are also struggling with a surplus of livestock.

“It’s just a matter of, day in and day out, how do we deal with cattle that can’t go to market and should?” Hill said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to rely on one plant, but we’re thankful that they’re there because without them we wouldn’t have an industry.”

Cargill has since moved production to other facilities to minimize disruptionS to customers.

According to Hill, this makes it more difficult for farmers.

“Of course they are further away and there is a logistical challenge to get them there, but in terms of any kind of compensation or assistance, the producers are not getting anything directly at the moment.”

Employees turn to food bank

The Guelph Food Bank reported a large increase in the number of employees signing up for their services in June.

“We had over 150 Cargill employees come through our doors at our Crimea Street location and about 50 more at our other eight locations,” said Carolyn McLeod McCarthy, General Manager of the Guelph Food Bank.

The food bank calls the number of recent registrations unprecedented.

“This month we’ve seen almost 3,700 (individuals), so that’s an increase of over 700 just from January to (the end of June). It just keeps growing and we don’t really see an end in sight, so we’re doing what we can to help.”

Cargill said in an email to CTV News: “We are concerned about the impact this labor disruption has had on our employees and their families. We are focused on bringing this to an end and welcoming our employees back to work. We look forward to meeting with the union bargaining committee on July 2 to discuss the possibility of this.”

CTV News reached out to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 175, the union representing the workers, for comment but did not receive a response.