Cargill workers’ bargaining priorities

Union makes priority demands at the Cargill bargaining table

President Hesse, Secretary Treasurer Stewart, and Dr. Gabriel Fabreau outside Cargill in Feb 2021.  Local 401 was already preparing for union negotiations at that time.

In the lead-up to bargaining, your union and Bargaining Committee gathered worker proposals for priorities in bargaining. All of those proposals continue to be advanced in our negotiations with Cargill.

However, this week we reminded the Company about some key proposals that they must negotiate in order to advance toward achieving a collective agreement. As an open and transparent union, we want to share the priorities we communicated to the Company with you.

This is the exact document we submitted to Cargill about our bargaining priorities:

Union Bargaining Priorities

On a without prejudice basis and without withdrawing any proposals we are advancing certain priorities that union members have told us are very important and we would like the Company to consider them fairly and immediately.

Simply put, Cargill should pay the workers more money.


  1. Firstly, the work our members do is complex and physically demanding. Our members have always deserved fair wages.
  2. Secondly, we finally have seen recognition in society that the work that employees at Cargill do is essential. They bring food to the tables of thousands and thousands of families every day. They have been called heroes. If you’re going to call them heroes, then they should be paid like heroes.
  3. Thirdly, global meat consumption is up, and analysts are saying that Cargill is more profitable now then they have been in 156 years.
  4. Employees have continued to work and were, in fact, forced to work during the pandemic taking extraordinary risk upon themselves and their families. Extraordinary risk demands appropriate pay.
  5. Fifthly, they have suffered, and they should be compensated for their suffering having worked at the site of the largest outbreak in North America. They deserve to be compensated for their hardship.
  6. The risk is ongoing. In countries with high vaccination rates, existing variants and variants not yet known pose a serious threat. And a meat packing plant is the sort of workplace that is at the highest risk. There is no reason to believe that these workers will not be at risk of the virus for months to come.
  7. It’s the right thing to do. Ethics and morality demand it. At a time when executives are making so much money, surely it makes sense to pay your employees. The employees are proud of their work and doing it well. It is an insult not to recognize their work with appropriate wages.
  8. Practical business case. You claim you can’t hire employees. Paying more will address that issue.  It will also help attract new employees.
  9. Increased compensation is not unprecedented and not a threat to the business. For months, the Company paid $50 a day and $2 per hour in pandemic pay premiums and the Company operated successfully and profitably. Other collective agreements have enshrined this right in contract language.  
  10. Increased cost of living for families.
  11. The court of public opinion believes these workers deserve fair compensation.
  12. Legal mechanisms have not been effective in compensating Cargill workers for their fear, stress, anxiety, and losses.

Some particulars of the union’s monetary proposal.

  1. Retroactivity – back to when the WHO announced a pandemic. There should be a very substantial overall wage increase that factors all these issues into account. The retroactive wage increases to March 1, 2020 and for the entire term of the agreement going forward should be reflective of the wages that were paid during the pandemic.  Previous pandemic pay was $2 per hour plus $50 per day, which equated to $8.25 per hour.
  2. Lump Sum Damages: for having to work when it wasn’t safe to do so and all of the psychological strain associated with that stress. Each employee who worked during the pandemic should receive a lump sum payment.  For any employees who acquired COVID and recovered, the figure should be larger. Employees classified as COVID 19 “Long Haulers” should receive a larger amount. The families of workers who died of COVID should receive the largest amount.

Job levels
A review of all the levels of wages to adjust upward overall.

Education and Training Fund
$0.15-0.16 per hour, per employee, paid by the Company into an education and training fund that is utilized by the members for training through the Union. The pandemic and the last few years have taught us that workers can be and have been exploited. Both the Company and the union have a common interest in an educated workforce that knows its rights. It reduces grievances, it reduces stress and anxiety, and it contributes to a more orderly and effective workplace.

Training on the job
No worker should be disciplined for a failure to perform their duties unless they have been sufficiently trained in all aspects of that job.

Current employees should be encouraged allowed to increase their skills and abilities through the apprenticeship program.  The Company has dozens of employees that have expressed interest in entering the program.  This should be commended and supported.

Union Representational Rights
Union bulletin board – Company has no right to gag the union, they have millions of feet of square space. It is unreasonable not to give the union limited space to exercise free speech.

Walking steward – one per shift.  Walking Stewards help reduce the number of grievances by addressing matters in a quick and timely matter.  They also provide much-needed and accessible voice that provides visibility for our members.  Also coordinates all the Stewards to ensure issues are being dealt with promptly with the appropriate management personnel.

Union Office – The current space for the Union office is very small and does not allow for proper physical distancing when representing members.  It is currently not big enough for more than 2 people and creates significant issues when translation is required or when someone needs support from a coworker.  Members need to be able to access their Union in private and feel safe when doing so.   Our members understand, appreciate, and know the value of day-to-day representation. It is unreasonable to confine that representation to an 8×8 office that forces them to choose between their own safety and getting the representation that they need and deserve.

Bargaining Committee – the Company has continued to interfere with the Unions ability to properly represent various communities, shifts and views on the bargaining committee.  It is imperative that all voices are heard and that the Company allows all members of the Bargaining Committee to attend all meetings. 

Health and safety
Joint Health and Safety Committee – Effective and efficient JHSC committee helps address safety and worker health concerns quickly, effectively and in a proactive manner.  The Company is attempting to remove duties and responsibilities from the current committee.  This would have a significant impact on the workforce as their say in health and safety matters would be greatly reduced.  The Company was found in violation of the OH&S Code in the spring of 2020 by failing to involve the committee in several matters.  By reducing the current duties of the committee, the Bargaining Committee believes that the Company is trying to lessen worker input, involvement, and liability for any future breaches of safety legislation. 

Line speed – Need line speed clocks in all areas and JHSC should have input on line speed.  Need clear understanding of the number of workers required to run at certain speeds. 

Working alone – There have been several issues in the past in relation to members working alone.  The CBA needs a clear process ensuring that the health and safety of all workers are protected when working alone.

Extreme Temperatures – As the temperatures swing in Alberta to greater degrees than before, members are being forced to work in temperatures that are becoming more and more concerning both inside and outside of the plant.  Needs to be clear language addressing steps to protect workers from hot and cold environments as well as a guideline for when protective actions need to be taken.

Heightened Health Concerns – Public Health Emergency Response.
Cargill was devastated by the COVID 19 pandemic and had an outbreak at the facility.  Our proposed article 23 provides for greater transparency and protections for workers in the event of a similar situation occurs at the plant in the future.

Modified work placement
Members and Stewards need to be involved in the modified work placement.  Members are experts in the jobs on the floor and placement should be meaningful and works towards recovery.  With increased chances of repetitive strain and the increased demand on production, the risk of re-injury is high.

Leaves of Absences
Bereavement – with an international workforce comprised of various cultures and religions, an increased time to grieve is necessary.  People may not be able to travel or attend a funeral, but they still need time to grieve. 

Personal Leave– people have children and need to care for loved ones. Need to attend to their familiar responsibilities and not be harassed or threatened with discipline when they are attending their family.

Sick leave – 10 paid sick days.  People work sick and especially with the global pandemic we cannot have employees coming to work sick.  Amend the benefit provider to allow for payment of isolation period for close contacts or those non-work-related cases.

Job bidding/movement 
Employees are not being moved to successful job bids in a timely manner.  The Union has lots of grievances.  The Company’s solution is not to ensure that workers are moved quicker, but to limit the number of bids that a worker has.  We do not believe that this will resolve the issue. 

Members have been very clear in their proposals that increased benefit coverage is required including increased vision care, dental, physiotherapy, chiro, and the inclusion of massage therapy.  The jobs that the members do are very hard and taking care of their bodies is imperative.

Members need to ensure that their lives after Cargill will be looked after.  After giving a career of service to Cargill, members feel that Cargill should recognize their years of service with increased contributions.

Shift schedules and rotations
Need clarity on what shifts currently are and they should be outlined in the contract.  Maintenance and all employees need certainty over their shifts and what their working hours are going to be.  The Union demands an estoppel on all shifts that are not in the CBA. 

Vacation requests and scheduling
People want to carry over vacation to go back to the home country for a longer period.  Long distance travel is required.  Need answers in a timely fashion to plan life.  Long service members deserve an additional week of vacation after 25 years of service.

TFW Program
The Union is fully supportive of the temporary foreign worker program.  The Union is not in favour of the Company’s stance to reduce restrictions that they must abide by and making TFW’s pay more money out of their own pockets to work for Cargill than workers in the past.  Since the about 2005, over 2,000 members at Cargill have achieved permanent residency and citizenship because automatic nomination process that is currently in the contract.  We are not in agreement of the Company’s position to remove automatic nomination from the process.

These are the priorities we are fighting for at the bargaining table and your Bargaining Committee needs your help in sending a message to Cargill that we are united in fighting for a fair contract.

Already we have seen a change in the company’s approach to negotiations. stay tuned for more on that with an update from your Bargaining Committee this weekend.

Paper Surveys

Many of you will have seen paper surveys seeking your input making their way through the Plant. We will have translated versions of these surveys coming out shortly.

Please take one minute to fill the survey out. Your input is important and if you fill out your contact information you will be entered into a draw for an iPad!

As a democratic union, we do what you tell us to do!

Telephone Town Halls

As part of of our effort to speak with as many Cargill union members as possible and answer all of your questions, we will be holding two telephone town halls. These town halls will be exclusively for Cargill workers. We will have more information about the town halls in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions, please speak to your Union Labour Relations Officer or a Walking Steward.

It has been a very difficult year for Cargill workers, and we know you have been through so much. By sticking together, we are confident we can win a fair offer from the Company that recognizes all your sacrifices and contributions.