Lethbridge food workers approve 14% pay raise

And that’s on top of wage adjustments of between 1% and 3%.

Earlier this month, Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union announced that workers at the Cavendish Farms food processing plant in Lethbridge overwhelmingly voted in favour of a new labour contract.

Based out of New Brunswick, Cavendish opened its new potato processing plant in the city’s industrial park in 2019 to triple the company’s production capacity in Lethbridge.

The previous labour contract between Cavendish and its roughly 170 workers expired in February 2021, nearly two years ago. After months of negotiating, the workers’ bargaining committee brought a tentative agreement forward in last month for ratification.

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According to the announcement at the time, the company had initially proposed wage increases for only some of the workers. When the bargaining committee had brought this forward to the workers for feedback, they pushed back, saying that these “monetary adjustments created an enormous disparity for the members who did not receive one”.

The bargaining committee took that response back to the negotiating table, and Cavendish made some concessions in what it called its “final, full and comprehensive offer for settlement”.

The tentative agreement put forward last month included baseline wage adjustments of between $1.00 and $3.00 an hour for every worker. On top of these adjustments, workers will receive 5 years of wage increases.

1 March 20213.00%
1 March 20223.00%
1 March 20233.00%
1 March 20242.25%
1 March 20252.50%

That’s a total of 13.75%. If we factor in the 1–3% wage adjustments, workers will be making between 14.75% and 16.75% more in 2025 than they were at the start of last year.

In addition to the wage adjustments and increases, workers also voted in favour of several other improvements, including:

  • Improved bereavement language and entitlement
  • Increased night shift premium
  • 3 paid personal and family responsibility leave days
  • Increased vacation compensation for employees with 20, 25 and 30 years of employment
  • Benefit enrolment shortened to 90 days
  • Removed termination of benefits for workers who are 65+ years old
  • Introduction of orthodontics to benefit coverage
  • Increases to dental care coverage
  • Increases to vision care coverage
  • Increases to health care spending account
  • Increases to boot and tool allowance

As well, the new contract includes adjustments to language to various areas, such as

  • Pay and classifications of relief employees, including minimum pay rates for weeks where coverage is required
  • Implementation of a sunset clause (a timeline for removal of discipline from an employee’s record)
  • Improved Health and Safety Committee language
  • Enhanced dignity and respect language
  • No reprisal or retaliation language when making a complaint to the company
  • Improved union representation language

The bargaining committee held voting in person on 6 December and online on 7 December. Of those who came out to vote, 78% voted in favour of the tentative agreement.

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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.

2 replies on “Lethbridge food workers approve 14% pay raise”

Thanks very much for a good news labour story out of Lethbridge. You are right in your previous comments on Lethbridge becoming a centre for organzed labour activity.

This is a solid advance. The language and benefits improvements may well be worth more than the wage increases. This is an impressive contract. I wonder if the other Cavendish plants will benefit?

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