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Maple Leaf deal brings ham jobs: UFCW

A new contract for workers at a Maple Leaf plant in Winnipeg will mean the shifting of 550 jobs to a new ham boning line there, according to the workers’ union.

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 832 working at Maple Leaf’s Lagimodiere Boulevard meat processing plant in the St. Boniface district have voted 89 per cent in favour of extending their agreement to 2011, giving them annual wage hikes from 25 to 45 cents per hour until then, and pension plan improvements starting next year, the union said today in a release.

With this deal in place, Maple Leaf plans to invest almost $40 million in the Lagimodiere plant for a new ham boning line, creating 550 new jobs, said Local 832 president Robert Ziegler.

The deal, however, adds uncertainty to the fate of another Maple Leaf further-processing facility on Warman Road, also in St. Boniface. The Warman Road plant, a newer facility built by J.M. Schneider before its takeover by Maple Leaf, was originally to house the new ham boning line and its jobs, Ziegler said.

Workers at the Warman Road plant voted in late August against re-opening their existing contract to negotiate over the conversion of that plant to ham boning. UFCW said it’s not known now what Maple Leaf’s plans are for Warman Road, and the company has not yet released an official statement on developments at either plant.

“Bargaining for a new collective agreement is scheduled to begin in early 2008 for the Warman plant,” Ziegler said in the union release. “Hopefully by then (Maple Leaf) will know what they want to do there. We will be fighting hard to keep the 600-plus jobs at Warman Road.”

Maple Leaf announced this summer it will shut its pork slaughter plant on Marion Street, also in St. Boniface, by October. That closure was in the company’s plan, announced last fall, to centralize its hog slaughter work by late 2009 at its newer slaughter plant in Brandon, Man., where it plans to add a second shift.

That consolidation, and the recent sale of the company’s livestock feed business, are part of Maple Leaf’s company-wide plan to refocus on developing its value-added meats and baked goods businesses.

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