Employees at a Cargill meat processing facility in Guelph, Ontario in Canada are striking over a disagreement around pay.

Close to 1,000 workers walked away from their tools at the Dunlop plant on Monday (27 May), according to the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) which represents the employees.

The move came after 82% rejected a negotiated settlement developed in talks between the agri-food giant and UFCW.

This follows on from a strike mandate which was issued to the UFCW negotiating committee earlier in April by 99% of the facility’s employees.

The UFCW said it had raised several workers’ concerns during talks with Cargill, such as rising living costs, and the $2 an hour pandemic pay which workers say was cut from their salaries while still in the height of Covid.

In a statement sent to Just Food, a Cargill spokesperson said: “The unanimously recommended settlement included a wage increase in each year of the 4-year settlement, with over a 9.3% increase in year 1 alone, retroactive pay dating back to Jan. 1, 2024, benefit enhancements, and a signing bonus.”

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They added: “We are disappointed by this outcome. Our proposed agreement, which the union bargaining committee unanimously recommended as a comprehensive proposal, honors the tremendous skill and dedication of our Guelph workforce in feeding families across Canada. We are concerned about the hardships a labour disruption will pose to our employees and our customers. We will be working with the union on next steps once we hear more from them.

“While we navigate this labour disruption, we will shift production to other facilities within our broad supply chain footprint to minimize any disruptions to our customers.

Cargill’s Dunlop meat processing site employs around 950 people and processes around 1,500 head of cattle a day, according to its website.

Private-label case-ready meat goods are manufactured here for retail customers in Canada. These products include poultry, pork and beef sausages and ground beef.

Speaking on the strikes in a statement, Kelly Tosato, president of UFCW’s Local 175 branch, which represents the Dunlop site workers, said: “Our members at Cargill Dunlop are an integral part of a vital supply chain that helps keep food on the table for people every day.

“The decision to go on strike is never easy but these members aren’t satisfied with what the company has brought to the table. And we will have their backs until their union negotiating committee can achieve a deal that reflects the nature of their hard work and commitment to creating quality food products that feed hundreds of thousands.”

The union added that “Cargill claims to be ‘working to nourish the world’ but cannot come to the table with an offer strong enough to help their own employees nourish themselves”.