Fighting Inflation For Local 401 Members: Disrespect at Olymel

Our members all over the province are struggling with the challenging impacts of record-high prices on goods like gas and groceries. From Superstore to Safeway, Co-op to Cargill, Wapasu to West Coast Reduction, everyone is hurting. Your union is fighting inflation by pushing employers to do more for their workers while they rake in record profits.

Recently, President Thomas Hesse visited members at the Olymel pork processing plant in Red Deer to talk about the concerns they are facing with the current cost of living and working conditions. 

Olymel’s Red Deer Plant is an international supplier of pork, employing over 1,600 union members and slaughtering as many as 8,500 hogs a day that are shipped all across North America and as far away as Asia. Over the course of the pandemic, business has been booming for Olymel, and Plant production has steadily increased to keep pace with the demand for pork worldwide.

Frustratingly, what has not kept pace with the demand for pork worldwide has been Olynmel union members’ wages. Like so many employers right now, Olymel is refusing to share in their incredible success with the very workers who have made it possible.

As is the case with all Local 401 members, Olymel workers are still essential. But the Company seems to be forgetting to whom they owe their success.

President Hesse was set to remind Olymel of just that point when he visited the Plant. A meeting had been set up between top Olymel officials and President Hesse, along with other representatives from our union, to discuss issues at the Plant. Lagging wages were at the top of the list.

But at the last minute, the Company canceled the meeting with a terse email that offered no explanation or apology.

“Disrespect seems to be a universal response from the employers we’re dealing with,” commented President Hesse in between meetings with Olymel members. “Whether it’s Galen Weston Jr., the Sobeys family, or the owners of Olymel, executive elites just don’t understand what their workers are going through.”

“I’m here to talk about the issues facing Olymel workers, where is the Company?” questioned President Hesse. “Their sudden and unexplained cancellation is yet another slap in the face to loyal employees who just want a fair shake.”

President Hesse decided to visit the Plant despite the Company’s cancellation to show Olymel workers that while the Company might not care about what they’re going through, their union is still fighting for them.

Just over a year, President Hesse and Treasurer Richelle Stewart joined Olymel union members in a meeting with the Red Deer Plant Manager, Regional Director, and other local Plant management to discuss wages and the challenges that Olymel was having recruiting new workers.

At that meeting, President Hesse reviewed a survey your union had conducted that highlighted an overwhelming consensus among Olymel workers that wages were the biggest stumbling block to hiring at Olymel.

President Hesse and your union have been pushing the Company for a commitment to increase wages ever since and we were hoping to have an opportunity to corner top Olymel decision-makers from out East directly at the recent meeting before it was canceled. 

“This is not an issue that is going away,” concluded President Hesse. “I won’t stop fighting to get our members the increases they deserve, whether it is here at Olymel, in our Safeway Wage Reopener negotiations, or the province-wide push we are coordinating to have employers ante up with the wages that workers need right now.”