2,300 plus workers in Brooks Alberta are on strike at the Tyson Foods slaughterhouse. These workers have been trying to get a first collective agreement with Tyson Foods. The strike began October 12 and has become very nasty.
The bulk of the workers at Tyson are immigrants and refugees from Somalia and the Sudan. UFCW 401 has been trying to negotiate a first agreement and Tyson has been trying to stall, and is accused by the union as to bargaining in bad faith. The Alberta government is standing by and allowing Tyson to do what it wants too. Issues in the dispute are; Health and safety, Respect and Handling of Biological hazards.
The Union is "playing a deadly game of politics gambling with peoples lives" - Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's office reply to union request for government intervention
The company is using scabs, or replacement workers as the Alberta government likes to call them in an attempt to keep operating. Tyson Foods is one of the largest slaughterhouse operators in the the United States and is often referred to as the Wal-Mart of the industry. Tyson has 27% of the Beef, Pork and Chicken sales in the United States. The plant in Alberta is a giant killing factory, killing 40% of the beef slaughtered in Canada, by far the largest operation in the country.
Despite the booming economy, the Alberta Klein government has done nothing help end this strike. The Union is prohibited from having more than 50 picketers at the site and cannot hold up those entering the facility for more than 3 minutes. The RCMP are acting as gatekeepers for the company ensuring access to the plant by scabs. Yet despite this the strikers have managed to slow production significantly. The company has also been using decoy buses, where they will have empty buses cross the line regularly, the windows are all covered so you cannot easily tell if it has scab workers or not.
One has to wonder why the Alberta government allows this to happen. These workers on strike are asking for health and safety protection, for safety related procedures to be implemented, protecting workers from injury and biological hazards.
Only in Alberta, no, just like Alabama, Georgia and Texas. Workers are brought in with a promise of good family supporting jobs and then they see the reality after they have relocated. They have no rights, health and safety is secondary to production and proper procedures are not followed in the handling of biological hazards.
"If there is a 'deadly game of politics' going on in Alberta, it is the politics of inaction. What is desperately needed is action from Premier Klein as well as the federal government to bring Tyson back to the bargaining table." - UFCW Canada national director Michael J. Fraser
The union has made requests for Premier Klein to get involved but have been rebuked. Klein's office accuses the union of "playing a deadly game of politics gambling with peoples lives."
The Alberta Beef producers have asked the Premier to intervene as feedlots fill up. Lets hope his friends can get him to act if nothing else will.
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For more information on this check out : Pressure Klein to help resolve Lakeside strike at the Straight Goods