More than 400 full-time workers at Highbury Canco are on strike

Workers were on picket lines Monday at Highbury Canco in Leamington, Ontario.  (TJ Dhir/CBC - photo credit)

Workers were on picket lines Monday at Highbury Canco in Leamington, Ontario. (TJ Dhir/CBC – photo credit)

A recent offer made to workers at Highbury Canco in Leamington, Ontario was turned down.

Now the 405 full-time workers represented by Local 175 of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) have started a strike that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday.

“Our members make quality products that consumers buy on grocery shelves nationwide,” Shawn Haggerty, president of Local 175, said in a press release.

“Highbury Canco should be a leader in this sector and start prioritizing the well-being of its employees who deserve to be paid good competitive wages.”

The previous contract for workers at the former Heinz plant, which processes tomato-based food and beverage products, expired at the end of 2022.

In November, Local 175 members voted 99.9 percent to go on strike. The two sides met on three separate occasions. The company’s final offer came on February 8th.

“Seventy percent of the workforce here makes less than $19 an hour,” said union chairman John Scott Jackson.

He says employees need to be better compensated due to increased inflation and the fact that they were considered essential workers during the pandemic.

“We risked our lives every day for two years to come in under COVID conditions,” Jackson said.



“Our members are looking for significant pay increases that they more than deserve,” said Sam Caetano, regional director at Local 175. “These workers have stood strong and worked hard through the hardships of the past few years, and they are committed to making things better Compensation and respect, and we have their backs.”

Worker Delvin Maxwell said he now wants an increase of $3.50 a year for four years.

Company ‘eager to resume business’

Highbury Canco President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Diab was surprised by the result after the increases were put on the table.

“We are definitely committed to continuing business as usual,” Diab said. “And most importantly, both the people who are striking and the people who are here, make sure that this is reconciled and that things eventually move forward.”

He said there’s a delicate balance they wanted to respect during this process.

“It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone and everyone has respect for each other and it’s important that it continues like this over the next few days and weeks,” Diab said. “We have no meetings planned from a negotiating perspective, and to be honest, I don’t expect any in the near future either.”


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