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Guelph Ont. Cargill employees to return to work Monday


After 42 days of walking the picket line, employees at the Cargill meat processing facility in Guelph, Ont. are set to return to work on Monday.

The 960 unionized employees at Cargill Dunlop ratified a new collective agreement Saturday afternoon.

The new contract includes a wage increase, improved dental coverage, and changes to both short term disability and bereavement leave entitlement.

As members begin to go back to work Monday, the union said full hours may not be immediately available for all members.

The union said pro-rated strike pay will be available for the first week for those not receiving full hours immediately.

Cargill, in an email statement to CTV News, said: “Cargill is pleased to have reached an agreement with the union that our Guelph employees have ratified. The agreement, which is comprehensive, fair and market competitive, reflects the critical role they play in feeding families across Canada. We believe this positive outcome is in the best interests of our employees, customers and producers, and are eager to move forward to build a stronger future, together.”

The strike, which began on May 27, involved nearly 1,000 employees who took to the picket lines demanding better wages, improved working conditions, and more comprehensive benefits. It came one day after members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 175 working at Cargill Dunlop rejected a negotiated settlement by 82 per cent.

The latest agreement was tentatively reached on Thursday, followed by Saturday’s ratification vote.

CTV News reached out to the union representing workers for comment but did not receive a response.

Local reaction to strike ending

Local businesses and suppliers dependent on Cargill's operations faced uncertainty during the dispute. One of those businesses was Rowe Beef Co. who welcomes the end of the strike with open arms.

“When I first heard about it, I kind of got a heads up [by] two to three weeks,” said Rod Rowe, owner of Rowe Beef Co. “There was kind of stuff going on ahead of time that they're going on strike. With Cargill, I do their Ontario Corn Fed Beef program with them. I had great communication with Cargill, and I was able to book a lot of my product ahead of time. If I didn't have that, I would have been in a bad situation. It would hurt my business.”

He said while he had concerns about his own business, he also worried about local beef farmers who were impacted by the strike.

“I feel sorry for the farmers because, you know, they grow these animals. These animals are growing two to three pounds a day on feed…I'm sure [Cargill] was shipping those animals from Ontario to Alberta. And I'm sure a lot of the animals were being shipped to Quebec so, you know, a little bit more transportation…I would say the problem I think it caused was just the price increase.”

As a federally registered meat establishment, Rowe said he can only purchase product from federal meat processing plants for his business. With Cargill being one of the only local federal plants, Rowe said his business would have suffered if the plant remained shut down.

“There's only a few people in Ontario that are federal like myself,” he said. “Cargill is federal. So a lot of these provincial meat plants, that's not gonna affect them because they can just buy from provincial slaughterhouses. There's not too many federal slaughterhouses around, so I'm glad they came to an agreement because I would have been in a bad situation as I can only buy from federal slaughter plants.”

The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) also expressed their relief about an agreement being reached.

The BOF, in an email statement to CTV News, said: “The Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) is relieved to hear that an agreement has been reached between Cargill Guelph and Union officials. We will continue to monitor as the facility reopens and returns to normal operation. We are extremely grateful for all the truckers and transport companies, financial institutions, a number of cattle buyers and dealers, and other processors who stepped up to help our farmers and sector over the last 42 days.” Top Stories

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