Striking workers at a meat plant in Canada owned by US agri-food giant Cargill have voted to return to work after securing a new pay deal.

The 960 unionised employees at the Cargill Dunlop beef facility in Guelph, Ontario, ratified a new collective agreement after 41 days on the picket line.

The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which represents workers at Guelph who downed tools on 26 May, said employees were returning to work today (8 July) and the facility – where approximately 1,500 head of cattle are processed every day – will resume production.

Kelly Tosato, president of UFCW Local 175, said: “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.

“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.”

The agreement contains wage increases totalling C$3.75 ($2.75) per hour over the course of the agreement, which includes $2 per hour in the first year. That $2 will be paid retroactively for all hours worked, including overtime, since 1 January. In addition, members will receive a contract renewal incentive payment in the form of a $500 lump sum.

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Other wins for the union include improvements to dental coverage payments and increased bereavement leave.

In a statement sent to Just Food, a Cargill spokesperson said: “Cargill is pleased to have reached an agreement with the union that our Guelph employees have ratified. 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.”

Meanwhile, workers at another Cargill meat plant in Canada – this one in Calgary – are expected to vote today (8 July) on whether or not to accept the company’s latest payment offer.

Results from the vote are expected on Wednesday (10 July).

In June, 100% of workers represented by the local branch of the UFCW (UFCW Local 401) said they would back strike action if Cargill was unable to provide a sufficient pay deal.

Commenting on the resolution at the Guelph plant, Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401, said: “We owe the members of Local 175 a debt of gratitude.

“It’s likely that we owe many of the improvements we see in our own settlement offer to their courage and willingness to fight.”

According to a UFCW statement, the new proposal from Cargill for Calgary’s workers includes guaranteed hours for “a significant number of employees”, retroactive pay of C$400,000 per employee on average, and an improvement to wages.

Chris O’Halloran, executive director for UFCW Local 401, said the proposal was “not everything the membership wanted and deserve” but stressed “this offer has real improvements we can build on.”

He added: “The harsh reality is that the employees in Guelph have now settled, and it may not be realistic to believe that four hundred case-ready employees can do better than 1100 striking workers did in Guelph after 41 days.

“It’s Local 401’s job to fight, but also to give workers fair and realistic advice.”