Edm. meat plant workers want better wages, benefits

The workers just voted to switch unions this past summer and are ready to negotiate a better contract.

Earlier this month, meat plant workers in Edmonton began contract negotiations with their employer, Maple Leaf Foods.

This past summer, a majority of workers at the company’s Edmonton location voted in favour of joining Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Prior to this, the workers belonged to the Christian Labour Association of Canada, a pro-company union.

Switching to Local 401 allows these workers to join nearly 7,000 Maple Leaf workers represented by UFCW at 16 unionized plants across the country.

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The negotiation process is for the workers’ first contract with the employer. According to a statement published to the Local 401 website, the bargaining team representing the workers are focusing on 3 main goals:

  • Fair wages that account for the affordability crisis
  • Reliable benefits that will fairly support them and their families
  • Job and income security through a fair guarantee of hours

Local 401 claims that the roughly 500 workers at this plant process over 75,000 chickens every day.

Thomas Hess, president of Local 401 reported that the labour these workers perform is both physically and psychologically difficult, and that it includes long hours and physically demanding tasks in confined and challenging conditions.

The workers’ bargaining team began negotiations on 4 October. They are still in the proposal stage, but they hope to share updates soon with workers on what the proposals from both sides look like.

Local 401 is also negotiating for workers at the Maple Leaf pork plant in Lethbridge, whose most recent contract expired in March 2022, over a year and a half ago.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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