National | Media Release

NFU solidarity with workers at Cargill’s High River beef packing plant

Tee Pee Creek, AB – The National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned that the lockout notice issued by Cargill Foods at its beef processing plant in High River has the potential to hurt workers, ranchers and consumers.

“Given the record profitability of beef processors over recent months, the wage increase being offered by Cargill is derisory at best,” said Iain Aitken, cattle rancher at Belmont, MB. “We support workers’ attempts to achieve better working conditions and fairer pay for the difficult and dangerous work they undertake, which was exposed by the April 2020 Covid outbreak when nearly half the plant’s workforce was infected and two workers, Benito Quesada and Hiep Bui, tragically lost their lives.”

“The NFU stands in solidarity with the UFCW workers at Cargill’s High River plant and supports their right to negotiate a fair wage and benefits in exchange for their labour,” said Neil Peacock, who raises cattle in the Peace River region of Alberta.

“We are worried that failure to reach an agreement by the December 6th deadline has the potential to wreak further havoc on cattle operations already struggling financially as a result of drought and skyrocketing feed costs” added Aitken. “Any interruption of beef processing at the plant will cause another backlog of slaughter cattle to build up in the feedlots, plummeting cattle prices and risk of store shelves being empty.”

“This dispute, along with the temporary shutdown of the plant due to Covid in 2020, highlights the problems in the food processing sector of our nation and the potential harm to our food sovereignty and food security,” Peacock added. “Concentration of the beef packing sector has not only led to depressed wages for plant workers but also depressed prices to Canada’s farmers and feeders — while Canadian consumers pay high prices at the super market.”

“Once again this highlights the systemic weakness that corporate concentration has created, whereby one processing plant handles more than 30% of the national beef cattle kill. We need more smaller-scale, local processing capacity across the country to mitigate the risks so clearly demonstrated here,” said Aitken.

The NFU asks that Canadians support the workers right to negotiate a fair deal and asks that Canadians contact their elected representatives to take a hard look at the concentration of power within our agriculture food sector.

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For more information:
Iain Aitken, NFU member, Manitoba: (204) 537 2620
Neil Peacock, NFU member, Alberta: (780) 228-9243

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