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Cargill issues lockout notice after 98 per cent of High River workers reject contract offer – Calgary Herald

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In a response posted online, UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse said employees are not deterred by Cargill’s lockout notice

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Cargill issued a lockout notice to workers at one of Canada’s largest meat-packing plants on Thursday, a day after unionized workers at the High River facility voted overwhelmingly against the company’s latest contract offer, putting them in a position to strike as early as Dec. 6.

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UFCW Local 401 said 98 per cent of its workers at the Cargill plant in High River rejected the offer Wednesday. The next day, Cargill issued a notice to UFCW Local 401 employees that they intend to lock out all workers as of 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 6.

“This is a complete lockout of all employees represented by UFCW at the above noted location,” read the notice signed by Tanya Teeter, Cargill vice-president of labour relations. “After the commencement of the lockout as described above, the form that the lockout takes may vary.”

In a response posted online, UFCW Local 401 president Thomas Hesse said employees are not deterred by Cargill’s lockout notice.

“They are big and they are bad, but we are not afraid. We will bargain from strength, and we will do what our members tell us to do.”

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The near-unanimous rejection of the contract offer shows the need for the employer to rebuild trust in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hesse said.

“Ultimately, it’s counterintuitive for any worker to want to stand on the street, withdraw their labour, take on all the risks associated with that. That is provoked,” Hesse told Postmedia.

“Cargill has made some overtures and has reached out, and I believe bargaining sessions will galvanize between now and Dec. 6 . . . (But) the workers get to decide. If there is an offer of substantial improvement, the workers will get to reflect on that and vote on that as well, maybe before there’s a strike.”

  1. Nearly 950 workers at Cargill's High River plant tested positive for COVID-19 in spring of 2020.

    Immigrant workers at Alberta meat plants vulnerable to dangerous conditions, research finds

  2. The Cargill meat packing plant near High River, where more than 900 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April and May 2020.

    Cargill workers vote in favour of strike action as bargaining negotiations stall

  3. The Cargill meat packing plant near High River, where more than 900 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in April and May 2020.

    RCMP investigating Cargill worker’s death from COVID-19

The testy labour dispute heated up two weeks ago, when union leaders issued Cargill a notice that workers would hit the picket line if a new collective agreement cannot be reached.

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A strike would come as prices of red meat approach record highs in North America amid global supply chain struggles. A shutdown at the High River facility would inject more uncertainty into that market, as that plant accounts for roughly 40 per cent of Canada’s beef processing capacity, employing roughly 2,000 workers across two shifts and processing about 4,500 head of cattle daily.

Hesse said he believes the workers have public sympathy during the dispute, raising the possibility of a beef boycott if workers go on strike.

In an emailed statement, Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said the company is optimistic an agreement can be reached before the Dec. 6 deadline. He said the company’s proposal reflects the “tremendous skill and dedication” of plant workers.

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“We are willing to keep meeting to avoid any labour disruption, which is in no one’s best interest during an already challenging time,” Sullivan said.

“While we navigate this negotiation, we continue to focus on fulfilling food manufacturer, retail and food service customer orders while keeping markets moving for farmers and ranchers. If necessary, we will shift production to other facilities within our broad supply chain footprint to minimize any disruptions.”

Cargill’s High River plant was the site of one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada in the spring of 2020. Three deaths were linked to that outbreak, and almost half of the plant’s workers tested positive for the virus.

Hesse said safety and compensation are issues for workers, but said bargaining to date has largely been driven by emotion and conversations around trust.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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U.S. stock futures rise following Friday's omicron-sparked selloff – MarketWatch

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U.S. stock futures rose late Sunday, following a steep selloff Friday sparked by fears of the global economic impact of a worrisome new strain of COVID-19.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures
YM00,
+0.70%

gained about 230 points, or 0.7%, as of 9 p.m. Eastern. S&P 500 futures
ES00,
+0.92%

and Nasdaq-100 futures
NQ00,
+1.14%

also showed solid gains.

Crude oil futures also rebounded Sunday from a Friday plunge, with benchmark U.S. crude
CLF22,
+5.24%

and Brent crude
BRNF22,
+4.70%
,
the international benchmark, jumping roughly 4% higher.

On Friday, Wall Street suffered its worst day in more than a year amid growing concerns over the new omicron variant of COVID-19. The World Health Organization’s technical advisory group on Friday declared it a “variant of concern,” and a number of countries imposed flight bans from countries in southern Africa, where the variant was first discovered.

Little is known about omicron, but investors Friday braced for bad news.

Read: U.S. health officials urge caution, but not panic, over omicron variant

In a holiday-shortened session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-2.53%

slumped 905.04 points, or 2.5%, to 34,899.34, with the index logging its worst daily drop since Oct. 28, 2020, according to FactSet data. The S&P 500 
SPX,
-2.27%

 fell 106.84 points, or 2.3%, to 4,594.62, and the Nasdaq Composite Index
COMP,
-2.23%

 sank 353.57 points, or 2.2%, to 15,491.66.

“The pandemic and COVID variants remain one of the biggest risks to markets, and are likely to continue to inject volatility over the next year(s),” Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer and chief market strategist at Truist Advisory Services, wrote in a Friday note. “It’s hard to say at this point how lasting or impactful this latest variant will be for markets.”

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Canada to Tap Maple Syrup Reserves to Combat Supply Crisis – TMZ

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Canadians to get biggest drop in gasoline prices since 2009 over COVID variant fears – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Canadians should experience the fastest drop in gasoline prices in nearly 13 years on Sunday as fears about a virulent new COVID-19 variant are expected to provide a break of 11 cents per litre at the pumps.

Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, said the national average price could drop to about $1.32 per litre but begin to rise again midweek.

“(Sunday) represents the single largest decrease at the pumps we’ve seen going back to 2009,” he said in an interview.

Global crude oil prices plunged Friday over fears about a new COVID-19 variant called Omicron that prompted Canada to ban entry for foreign nationals who travelled through southern Africa.

The January crude oil contract fell 13.1 per cent or US$10.24 on Friday and currently stands at US$68.15 per barrel.

The decrease came as U.S. stock markets closed early Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Sunday and Monday are going to be the best days for Canadians to fill up, including British Columbia,” McTeague said

Even residents of flood-ravaged B.C. will save on the province’s high gasoline prices despite facing rationing because severe flooding has shut both the Trans Mountain pipeline and the province’s lone refinery.

Drivers of non-essential vehicles can only purchase up to 30 litres per visit to a gas station in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky area, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

East Coast residents won’t reap the immediate benefits of Sunday’s price drop because its regulated regional system averages price movements. That provides price predictability but blunts price discounts.

Despite the upcoming decrease, national gasoline prices have surged nearly 43 per cent in the past year as the reopening of the global economy from pandemic lockdowns prompted a recovery in crude prices.

McTeague suggested Canadians shouldn’t get too comfortable with the energy savings. He said prices are expectd to increase as OPEC and its allies, who are meeting on Monday, will likely refuse to increase production any further. Energy traders realize that Friday’s decrease was overdone and “flies in the face of fundamentals,” he added.

“My sense is that the decreases that we saw were a little exaggerated and overbought, and for that reason I think we might see a little bit more balance come back to the markets and fundamentals by Wednesday,” McTeague said.

“Unless there’s further unsettling news of greater and further lockdowns, I would expect that oil prices are probably going to recover US$3 to US$4 a barrel by Monday or Tuesday, which means by Wednesday or Thursday we could be looking at increases in the order of four or five cents a litre.”

McTeague said some gasoline savings will continue for a couple of weeks, but he foresees crude climbing back to about US$90 a barrel, which would translate into prices in Canada exceeding $1.50 per litre.

Impending carbon tax increases will further boost prices.

A tax of 2.5 cents per litre, including HST, will take effect on April 1, 2022. It will be followed in December by the clear fuel standard that will add another 18.1 cents per litre including HST, said McTeague.

Adding to the inflation pressure is the Canadian dollar which is less valuable than when it was at par the last time crude prices were around US$80. That reduces the purchasing power for all kinds of products, including energy and food.

The Canadian Automobile Association said that as of early Saturday morning, Manitoba had the lowest average pump price of $1.35/L, followed closely by Alberta at $1.377, while Newfoundland and Labrador was the highest at $1.583 with British Columbia at $1.558.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2021.

Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press

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