Union representing Viterra staff in Saskatchewan to make a decision on strike action in early January

The union representing employees who work at Viterra’s elevators in Saskatchewan and at the grain company’s head office in Regina is planning to make a decision in early January on whether to move ahead with strike action.

Members of the Grain and General Services Union (GSU) Local 1 (Viterra Country Operations and Maintenance) and Local 2 (Viterra Regina Head Office) voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s final offer. The results were announced Dec. 15, and followed an earlier vote in November where members voted in favour of authorizing a strike.

“The strong rejection vote across both Locals is no real surprise,” said GSU general secretary and bargaining spokesperson Steve Torgerson, in a Dec. 15 press release. “Members have been clear from the beginning that they need real wage increases written into their collective agreements. This final offer from Viterra does not provide that.”

The GSU says the main bargaining issues are “reliable wage increases, better work-family balance, health and safety and greater respect in the workplace.”

In a Dec. 19 notice to members, the union says its board of delegates is “cautiously optimistic” Viterra will return to the bargaining table. The memo says delegates plan to meet in Regina on or before Jan. 2, when they will decide on strike action, depending on whether they see progress in the bargaining talks.

The union acknowledges the impact any disruption in grain handling and shipping will have on local producers.

“We work directly with Viterra’s customers and producers. We know what a strike or lock out might mean for them and we don’t want things to reach that point,” said Viterra employee and GSU bargaining committee member Dale Lysitza. “GSU members have been talking to the customers and producers they serve since bargaining began last year. They know what our issues are, what we are fighting for and what’s at stake for us. We value those relationships and are counting on their support and understanding if it comes to a point where we have to take a stand for what’s right and fair for our coworkers.”

Bunge is currently going through the approval process of acquiring Viterra for $8.1 billion. The company expects to close the deal in mid-2024.

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