HyLife employees meet with Union reps


By Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Banner

Representatives with HyLife Foods and the employees’ union will soon sit down and start negotiating a new deal. The current five-year contract is set to expire at the end of the year. UFCW Local 832 represents employees at the Neepawa plant and held a series of proposal meeting with its members on Sept 18.

Local 832 Director of Communications Blake Crothers said these sessions were the first step in gauging the views of the employees and what they deem the most important topics for upcoming contract negotiations.

“When a contract is set to expire, what we do is we notify the employer a number of weeks out from the expiration date. It’s usually, three to four months. With that, we also notify the membership that their collective agreement is about to expire and invite them to all to what is known as a proposal meeting.” said Crothers.

Three separate proposal meetings were held on Sept 18. Crothers said this ensured as many members as possible were able to attend and provide their perspective.

“We had a very good turnout at these meetings and the membership expressed what they’d like to see happen. This last [contract agreement] will expire soon. It was a five-year deal, so the members are quite anxious to have an opportunity to negotiate the terms of a new deal. “ said Crothers.

“A lot of the concerns that were raised revolved around the cost of living going up in the past five years. Rents across the region have gone up, due to housing shortages in the community. Our members would like to see their wages affected. But there’s also health and safety issues, so it’s not always about money.”

Crothers added that line speed, scheduling and overtime were also topics the union has been asked to explore. He noted these initial discussions with the membership were very productive 

“The union is built on the members. We can’t do anything without the membership asking for it. The members have had this last contract for about five years and they are anxious.” said Crothers.

As for the next step in the process, Crothers suggested that it would involve several union officials sitting down and putting together a first draft of requests for HyLife Foods to consider.

“The negotiators will now work with the committee and put the proposals into contract language. It’s one thing to say ‘I want a wage increase of X amount of dollars.’ But you have to look through the collective agreement and find out all the clauses that that affects, so that you are presenting it to the company in proper contractual terms.” said Crothers. “The negotiating committee will then sit down with company officials and start the process.”