GUELPH, ONTARIO — Almost 1,000 workers went on strike at the Cargill Dunlop beef facility in Guelph, Ontario after contract negotiations broke down.

According to information from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 175 and 633, workers rejected the negotiated settlement by 82%, which sent employees to the picket line on May 27.

“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,” said Kelly Tosato, president of UFCW Local 175. “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 also brought up the importance of bargaining for an increase in pay because of higher cost of living and maintaining some pay increases that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the union strike, Cargill provided a statement to MEAT+POULTRY expressing its disappointment with the 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,” the company said. “We are concerned about the hardships a labor 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.”

Cargill added that while it navigated the labor disruption it plans to shift production to other facilities within its supply chain to minimize disruptions to customers.

The company stated that its recommended settlement included a wage increase in each year of the four-year settlement with more than a 9.3% increase, which included back pay dating to Jan. 1, 2024. Other items included benefit enhancements and a signing bonus, according to Cargill.

According to the company website, the Dunlop plant is the only large scale halal facility in Canada and operates under a 100% halal certification, its H code beef program.

After the strike began, UFCW Local 401, a union group representing the Cargill case-ready meat plant in Alberta, sent a note of solidarity to its fellow union members.

“Cargill workers in Ontario will not be alone,” said Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401.

The other union stated that it would hold a strike vote at the case-ready Cargill plant in Calgary, where workers are making similar demands on wages and compensation.