Mediator involved as Viterra strike continues

(Resource News International) — Unionized employees at the head
office of Canada’s largest grain handler remain on
strike in retaliation to the company’s plan to initiate rotating
lockouts in order to force a new labour contract, a Grain Services Union official said Friday.

“Viterra, so far, has not locked out any unionized employees
at its country operations in Saskatchewan,” said Hugh Wagner, the GSU’s general secretary.

Viterra (the new operating name for Saskatchewan Wheat Pool
after its acquisition of Agricore United last year), is in a contract

dispute with some 200 unionized employees at its headquarters and
as many as 650 grain elevator workers in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan workers voted in June to reject the
company’s last contract offer. Alberta and Manitoba members at the company’s former AgPro Grain elevators voted
to accept the same offer made by Viterra. The
workers at Viterra’s head office in Regina began striking at one
minute after midnight local time on July 7.

Wagner said the federal government has brought in a mediator
to try to see if there is any room between the two sides to reach
a successful labour contract.

He confirmed the mediator has met a number of times with
both sides, but has not brought the company and the union
together at the same time for any discussions.

“The union remains at moments’ notice ready to resume the
negotiation process,” Wagner said.

Wagner said the strike by the office workers has disrupted
company operations such as information technology flows as well
as other administrative operations.

Movement of grain and oilseeds by Viterra’s country
operations remain unaffected, he said.

Viterra has offered to provide the GSU member employees with a pay hike of up to 27 per cent over
five years, although the union has noted that the actual level of the raises per employee will be based on performance.

The company’s offer to its GSU employees also includes a six per cent signing bonus and annual
performance-based wage increases of up to six per cent in the first year and five per cent
in the next three, beginning Nov. 1. It also carries
opportunities for further annual incentives in the range of five, 10
and 15 per cent of their pay.

Grain industry analysts, meanwhile, felt that while the
labour dispute would not have any immediate impact on the movement
of grains and oilseeds, any prolonged action could result in a
slowdown.

Officials from Viterra were not available for comment.

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