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Cargill and union reach settlement agreement as strike enters second month


Progress has been made in the ongoing strike at the Cargill meat processing plant in Guelph, Ont.

The union representing workers announced Tuesday they reached a new recommended memorandum of settlement with the company.

Information sessions to discuss the deal begin Friday, while the ratification vote will be held Saturday at the Royal Canadian Legion at 57 Watson Parkway South.

In the meantime, the union said workers will continue to walk the picket line.

CTV News reached out to Cargill to get their reaction. In an email, they said their focus is on "putting an end to this [labour] disruption and welcoming our employees back to work."

Nearly 1,000 members picketing

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

According to a May 26 news release, union members voted 82 per cent in favour of rejecting the previous negotiated settlement.

Nearly 1,000 members hit the picket lines as of 12:01 a.m. the next day.

The union said it has raised a number of issues at the bargaining table, including the increased cost of living and the $2 per hour pandemic pay that the union claims was taken away during the pandemic.

“Our members at Cargill Dunlop are an integral part of a vital supply chain that helps keep food on the table for people every day,” Kelly Tosato, the president of UFCW Local 175, told CTV News back in May. “The decision to go on strike is never easy but these members aren’t satisfied with what the company has brought to the table. And we will have their backs until their Union Negotiating Committee can achieve a deal that reflects the nature of their hard work and commitment to creating quality food products that feed hundreds of thousands.”

Beef farmers express concerns

As the strike entered its second month, one southern Ontario beef farmer addressed the industry’s growing concern.

“We were hopeful that it would get resolved fairly quickly,” Joe Hill told CTV News in June. “I'm not sure too many of us thought we'd be sitting here at the end of June still looking at that [Guelph] plant closed.”

Hill said farmers are also dealing with a surplus of cattle.

“It's just a matter of, day-to-day, how are we dealing with cattle that can't go to market and should?” Hill said. “It's unfortunate that we're dependent on one plant, but we're thankful they're there, because we wouldn't have an industry without them.”

Cargill, meanwhile, has shifted production to its other facilities to minimize the disruptions to customers.

Hill said that makes it harder on farmers.

“Of course, they're further away and there's logistics figuring out how to get them there, but as far as any sort of compensation or relief, there's nothing coming directly to producers at this point.”

Workers turn to food bank

The Guelph Food Bank reported a big one-week increase in workers signing up for their service in June.

“We saw over 150 Cargill workers coming in our own doors here at our Crimea Street location and another 50 or so at our other eight locations,” Carolyn McLeod McCarthy, managing director at the Guelph Food Bank, said.

The food bank called the number of recent sign-ups unprecedented.

“This month we've seen almost 3,700 [individuals], so that's an increase of over 700 just from January until [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, in an email to CTV News, said: “We are concerned about the impacts this labour disruption has had on our employees and their families. Our focus is on putting an end to it 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 doing so.”

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

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