September 26, 2005 17:02 ET


Union urges Tyson to do the same to avoid hurting beef industry Attention: Agriculture Editor, City Editor, Food/Beverage Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor BROOKS, ALBERTA--(CCNMatthews - Sept. 26, 2005) - The union representing workers at the Lakeside meat packing plant in Brooks, Alberta announced today that its members have voted to accept the contract proposal developed by a government-appointed Disputes Inquiry Board.

The union decided to present the proposed deal directly to its members and allow them to decide if they could support it. In votes held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Lakeside workers voted 90% in favour of acceptance.

"While we would have preferred to hold the vote during the week, with Minister Cardinal releasing it to the public on September 26, we felt the workers should know what the deal was and be able to vote before the public was made aware of the content of the proposed contract," says Doug O'Halloran, President of Local 401 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada).

"The turnout was good considering it was pay-day this week and the workers had Saturday off. When you hand out in the plant a copy of the highlights to the workers before the vote those who are happy a lot of the time won't bother to come out and vote."

"Our members have reviewed the report from the mediator, Mr. Moreau, and despite some concerns, they've said they're prepared to accept it as the basis of a first collective agreement," says O'Halloran,

"The ball is now in the company's court. We're not happy with everything the mediator is proposing. But, we don't want to cause any more problems for the beef industry, so we're willing to compromise. We're hoping that the company will take the same approach."

In July - as Lakeside workers prepared to go out on a legal strike - the provincial government stepped in, put the strike on hold and appointed John Moreau to serve as one-person Disputes Inquiry Board. Over the past two months, Moreau met with both the union and the employer (U.S. based food giant Tyson Foods) in an effort to find a compromise that could avoid a labour disruption at Lakeside, western Canada's largest meat packing plant.

Moreau's report was delivered to Human Resources Minister Mike Cardinal on September 15 and copied to Tyson and the union on Monday September 19.

"We don't want to create more stress and financial uncertainty for an industry that's already been rocked by drought and the recent BSE crisis," says O'Halloran. "That's why our members are supporting this report. It's not perfect deal for our members, but it's a fair compromise that will keep Alberta's beef industry running. Farmers and ranchers are just getting back on their feet again - so they don't need to deal with a labour disruption at the plant that handles 40 percent of Alberta's cattle. We're just hoping Tyson sees the wisdom of meeting us halfway."

If Tyson refuses to accept the report, O'Halloran says his members will have no choice but to prepare for a strike unless the government sends the dispute to binding arbitration.

"It's not our first preference. We would prefer a negotiated settlement that would spare the beef industry from being caught in the middle. And Mr. Moreau's report provides us with a golden opportunity. But, make no mistake. If the company is not willing to accept this report, we will have no choice but to strike. And it's a strike that we would take very seriously. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that. And with the life-line Mr. Moreau has just thrown us, there is absolutely no reason it has to. The government has put the union in a very difficult position. Let's hope they have the backbone to force Tyson to accept a fair contract."
/For further information: For more background go to www.gounion.ca/ IN: AGRICULTURE, FOOD, JUSTICE, LABOUR, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Doug O'Halloran, President, UFCW CANDA LOCAL 401
    Primary Phone: 403-861-2121
    Secondary Phone: 403-291-1047
    E-mail: ufcw@ufcw401.ab.ca