Strike over, Cargill workers back at work

GUELPH – After 41 days on the picket line, strikers at Cargill’s Dunlop Drive meat processing facility in Guelph ratified a new collective agreement on July 6.

The workers, represented by Local 175 of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), began strike action on May 27 after turning down a deal on May 26.

“In our union, the power is in the hands of our members through their democratic vote, and the members at Cargill Dunlop used their vote to make their voices heard,” said president of UFCW Local 175 Kelly Tosato in a statement on their website. 

“It is a tough decision to go on strike and it can be an even more difficult decision to end a strike. But these members took a stand against a huge corporation, and they should be proud of their strength and courage.”

This agreement contains wage increases totalling $3.75 per hour over the course of the agreement, which includes $2 per hour in the first year. 

That $2 will be paid retroactive for all hours worked, including overtime, since January 1, 2024. 

In addition, members will receive a $500 lump sum signing bonus.

Benefit packages

The new contract also includes enhancements to benefit packages:

Dental coverage improves to $2,000 per year, and members also benefit from the removal of lifetime caps on a number of dental services;

Short term disability now has a maximum of 70 per cent and will provide up to $143 more per week. This means members can receive up to $668 per week while on short term disability leave; and

Bereavement leave entitlement for members will now be five days, up from four, for the death of a spouse, child, or parent.

As members begin to go back on July 8 and the plant restarts, full hours may not be immediately available for all members. 

As such, the union will continue pro-rated strike pay for the first week for those not receiving full hours immediately, the statement says.

A strike vote in April had 99% support from members.

Some 82% rejected a proposed settlement on May 26 which led to the strike.

It was a close vote on July 6 with just 52% reportedly voting in favour of the contract. But it was enough to end the strike.

“Cargill is pleased to have reached an agreement with the union that our Guelph employees have ratified,” said Cargill spokesperson Chuck Miller in an email.

“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.”

With approximately 1,500 head of cattle processed every day at Cargill Dunlop, the members of UFCW Local 175 in the facility are an integral part of the food supply chain in this province and beyond.