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Viterra head office workers take deal

Striking workers at the head office of Canada’s biggest grain company will be back at work Sept. 22 after agreeing to what Viterra called its “last, best and final” contract offer.

And workers at the company’s Saskatchewan grain elevators, all of whom were back on the job last week after talks resumed between Viterra and the Grain Services Union (GSU), are to vote on the same offer at meetings over the next 10 days, the company said.

If the elevator workers approve the offer, their votes would end farmers’ uncertainty over whether some or all Viterra elevators in the company’s home province would be picketed while harvest continues.

Pickets had been mounted at eight Viterra country facilities in recent weeks, up until the members’ latest vote was announced.

The head office workers, also represented by the GSU, had been picketing the company’s Victoria Avenue head office in downtown Regina for 11 weeks.

A majority of GSU members in the head office bargaining unit voted Tuesday afternoon to accept the company’s offer for a five-year contract, with a six per cent signing payment and annual performance-based pay hikes of up to six, five, five and five per cent.

The deal also calls for annual incentives that could add to a worker’s total annual pay in the range of five, 10 and 15 per cent, Viterra said in a release Tuesday afternoon.

“The labour disruption at the Regina office, which began on July 7, has had no material impact on business,” the company said.

“We are looking forward to our Regina office employees returning to work under a new long-term contract that will give our employees market-based compensation and benefits, fairness and flexibility, and labour stability,” said Colleen Vancha, Viterra’s vice-president for investor relations and corporate affairs, in the company’s release.

The GSU had no comment Tuesday afternoon on its web site, other than to say that the wording was being finalized on the return-to-work agreement between the union and the company and that agreement would be available soon.

A unit of GSU members working at some Viterra elevators in Alberta and Manitoba voted in June to take the company’s offer. That unit works at elevators formerly branded as AgPro Grain, which was a wing of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool before its merger with Agricore United as Viterra.

The GSU represents about 850 Viterra employees in total. The company, including all subsidiaries, reports a staff of about 4,000 people.

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