XL’s Moose Jaw workers reject another offer

Locked-out workers at XL Foods’ beef packing plant at Moose Jaw, Sask. have voted to reject their Alberta parent company’s latest offer and keep walking the line.

The workers, who have been without a contract since the end of January, came back from a five-month shutdown last month to a company-imposed lockout and then rejected an XL Foods contract offer in late September.

XL submitted a new offer to the workers after talks Oct. 7-8 between union and company officials.

The members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) Local 1400 voted on the offer Thursday night, with about 93.5 per cent of the 140 voting workers rejecting the proposal, according to Norm Neault, president of Local 1400 in Regina.

Neault said the new offer stood pat on the company’s previous proposals to remove severance pay, end a cap on overtime hours and cut maximum vacation time from five weeks to four.

The company also proposes new limits on guaranteed hours of work, Neault said. Under their previous agreement, employees were guaranteed 37 hours a week for 47 weeks and 32 per week for the remaining five. XL now proposes 37 hours a week for 40 weeks and 32 per week for the remaining 12.

The company now also proposes a six-year contract, up from the previous four years, in which workers would see a pay increase of $1.75 an hour above the base rate over the six-year period, starting with an increase upon ratification, then increases in years three through six, with no retroactive pay upon signing.

A six-year deal, Neault said, “would put us out of industry standard for at least two years” in which the workers wouldn’t be able to negotiate again.

Given the scale of the vote against the proposal, Neault said the workers are sending a message to the company to “get serious” and remove some of its more contentious proposals from the table.

The company, he noted, has already agreed to continue paying workers’ long-term disability coverage, premiums it had proposed to shift to the employees in its previous offer.

Neault said he was able to reach XL management early Friday morning to inform them of the vote’s outcome. He hasn’t yet heard back from the company and no new talks have been scheduled, he said late Friday afternoon.

A call to the spokesman for XL Foods’ parent company, Edmonton-based Nilsson Bros., was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.

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