More than 470 employees at a Nestlé Canada plant in Toronto are on strike after Unifor Local 252 and the company failed to reach an agreement on May 1.

The main sticking points include making temporary workers permanent — with access to Nestlé’s benefits and defined contribution pension plan — and increasing the employer-sponsored amount of the company’s grandfathered defined benefit pension plan.

Eamonn Clarke, president of Unifor Local 252, says the company was previously using contract workers to fill in and, though classed as temporary workers, they were essentially working full-time jobs. He says the union is hoping these workers can become permanent through attrition and thus have access to better benefits and the company’s DC pension plan.

Read: Nestlé workers in Canada strike over pensions

Also at issue, says Clarke, is the company’s DB pension plan, which about half of the workers were grandfathered into following a strike in 2014. There were no increases to the DB plan in the last year of the previous agreement, he says, adding that in 2020, both Unifor and Nestlé had agreed to temporarily roll over the previous contract agreement, rather than renegotiate it, due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, notes Clarke, it’s been two years since the DB pension amount has increased.

During the last contract negotiations, Unifor also worked to ensure Nestlé hired the contract workers — roughly 80 of them — made permanent on a temporary basis, with the company agreeing to move 10 of these workers up to P1 status every year. Clarke says this move makes the employees permanent and entitled to benefits, including the company’s DC pension plan.

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In an statement emailed to Benefits Canada, Nestlé said: “Following extensive contract discussions in recent weeks, effective May 1, 2021, Unifor, the union representing production and maintenance employees at our Sterling Road factory in Toronto, ended negotiations and they’ve decided to strike. We’re disappointed with the union’s decision as we have . . . presented a fair and equitable offer. We look forward to reaching a resolution and having our employees return to work.”