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About 2,000 workers at the Cargill Inc. beef plant in High River, Alta., are calling off a strike after reaching a deal this weekend that includes a six-year collective agreement featuring retroactive pay, signing bonuses, a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract and improved health benefits.

The deal also gives employees a $1,000 signing bonus and a $1,000 “COVID-19 bonus.” The threat of a strike loomed at the Alberta beef processing plant, but has been averted after workers accepted the owner’s latest offer. The union that represents the Cargill workers said its members voted 71 per cent in favour of accepting the company’s contract.

Read: Indigo workers unionizing for enhanced benefits, paid sick days

In a statement, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 401 said the contract is “the best of its kind and presented unprecedented gains in this time of economic and political uncertainty.”

Jarrod Gillig, the business operations and supply chain president for Cargill’s North American protein business, said the deal is “comprehensive” and “fair,” adding it reflects its employees’ “commitment to excellence.”

“As an organization that leads with our value to put people first, we truly believe this ratification is in the best interests of our employees and we are eager to move forward to build a stronger future — together,” he said in a statement.

Last month, employees voted 98 per cent against Cargill’s previous offer and the union said workers would strike if a contract agreement couldn’t be reached. Cargill and the union had been at loggerheads for some time over issues related to wages as well as health and safety.

Read: Employers holding on-site coronavirus vaccination clinics in hot spots

In May 2020, Cargill’s High River, Alta., plant was the site of a major workplace-related outbreak of the coronavirus. More than 900 workers tested positive for the virus and three deaths were linked to the outbreak.

“A victory has been won and this is a day to celebrate,” said a statement from the UFCW Local 401, which had recommended acceptance of the contract offer. “The injustices at Cargill, however, are not made right by the contract. Local 401 and its activists look to the future to enforce the new rights of Cargill workers in this unprecedented collective agreement.”

The statement also noted that in Brooks, Alta., 2,500 employees who process beef at the JBS Plant are watching the Cargill precedent carefully. The union said it will head into bargaining for a new contract in 2022.

Read: Alberta Safeway workers vote in favour of strike action over benefits, pandemic pay

Meanwhile, a container truck driver strike at two companies serving the Port of Vancouver that was set to begin Friday will be avoided. Unifor said it reached an agreement with Prudential Transportation at the time of deadline, avoiding a strike at Canada’s busiest port. The now-signed agreement includes drug, dental, health and insurance coverage, along with increased payments for time spent waiting for their trucks to be loaded and unloaded.

Unifor also reached an agreement with Aheer Transportation earlier last week. Truckers at the two companies had voted to strike if their employers didn’t match an agreement reached earlier this year with Harbour Link Transportation, which pays truckers $60 per hour after the first hour they spend waiting for their vehicles to be loaded and unloading.

Unifor said the strike would have impacted about 10 per cent of the vehicles servicing the port and threatened Canada’s overall port stability at a time when B.C.’s supply chain is facing increasing pressure after recent storms flooded transportation routes.

Read: Globe and Mail, Unifor deal includes enhanced mental-health benefit