UFCW local 832 president Jeff Traeger said he was relieved on Monday, one day after union members working at Maple Leaf’s pork processing plant in Brandon voted 89 per cent in favour of a new five-year contract offer on Sunday.
Traeger said that this new deal and the way it was presented to workers had a couple of advantages over the deal rejected by 65 per cent of union members in early December.
Whereas members were provided with written translations only the first time, this new deal found members presented with the information verbally in six different languages.
"I think the lesson we learned is that even though members come from so many different countries and speak so many different languages, we can’t just assume that they understand the document that was translated," he said.
Traeger added that not a lot of members came out for the information meeting held at the plant for the first contract offer and that the previous vote saw a lot of members come in and vote without looking at any documents.
"They were in a hurry," he said. "They’ve got 15 minutes for their break. They’re running in past the voting booth and they walk in past the voting booth, they throw it in and I think there were people who voted without really understanding."
According to Traeger, turnout was slightly lower at the second ratification vote because it was outside off-site in the Canada Room at the Keystone Centre. Just under 900 workers came out to vote on the deal.
The second issue, Traeger said, is that in the first deal Maple Leaf moved to have workers get paid biweekly as of 2023 instead of the current weekly schedule, which was unpopular to union members.
Another first in this contract is that workers can now bank overtime hours as personal days. The union and Maple Leaf have also agreed to a joint project that will recruit people with disabilities to work at the plant, which the union touts as a first for a Maple Leaf plant in Canada.
This new deal expires on Dec. 31, 2024.
Maple Leaf is Brandon’s single-largest private employer, with approximately 1,900 employees.
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