Saskatchewan’s general farm group is urging beef firm Nilsson Bros. and its unionized workers at the province’s only federally inspected beef plant to get back to the bargaining table.
The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) on March 29 urged the two sides to “resolve their differences and enable the reopening” of the XL Beef slaughter plant at Moose Jaw.
“Without a facility of this type in the province, Saskatchewan ranchers are facing a significant cost disadvantage,” Norm Nordgulen, chair of APAS’ livestock committee, said in a release.
Nordgulen, a rancher and farmer at Assiniboia, said the plant’s “eventual reopening” would be good news for cattle producers as well as the city.
The Moose Jaw plant hasn’t been fully staffed since April last year, when XL Foods laid off its staff for the summer, then issued a lockout notice in September as the layoff period ended, citing inability to reach a new collective agreement with the workers.
As of March 29, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1400, which represents the XL workers at Moose Jaw, there are no bargaining dates set and the union has had “no response from the company” since the workers rejected XL’s last contract offer.
However, the union said on its website, plant managers slaughtered a limited number of cattle at the facility March 25 as part of an inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, required for the XL plant to maintain its federal licence.
APAS, in its release, quoted the union as saying plant managers slaughtered just five cattle to satisfy CFIA inspectors’ requirements.
“Hopefully this is a sign that the employer wants to get the plant back operational (and) wants to get back to the bargaining table with some meaningful negotiations and resume operations as soon as possible,” UFCW Local 1400 president Norm Neault was quoted as saying on the union’s site.
The union said it believes that if Nilsson Bros. had no plans to reopen the Moose Jaw plant, it wouldn’t have taken these steps to renew its federal licence.
APAS president Greg Marshall, who farms and runs cow-calf and back-grounding operations at Semans, Sask., said in the association’s release that he recently discussed the labour dispute with Brian Nilsson, co-CEO of Nilsson Bros.
Marshall said he was “encouraged by the company’s eagerness to ultimately reopen the plant.”