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Maple Leaf, striking workers return to talks

EDMONTON - Maple Leaf Foods has requested a meeting today with the union representing striking workers at its Edmonton poultry plant.

"We don't know if that is for the purpose of negotiating or to discuss other issues that have developed since the strike started," said Jack Westgeest, northern director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1118.

"I have absolutely no idea what their intentions are with respect to this meeting because they did not share any information other than to arrange it through the mediator."

About 325 workers at the plant walked off the job Sept. 21, demanding better wages and more personal cleanup time. The current base pay rate is $15.82 per hour, which is $1.26 per hour lower than Lilydale's rate. Workers at the slaughter and processing plant at 2619 91st Avenue also want an additional five minutes attached to break times to wash up properly before sitting down to eat or have coffee.

Westgeest said one of the issues that has developed since workers went on strike has to do with vacation time. Some workers' previously scheduled vacation time is occurring while they are on the picket line and they should be paid for it, Westgeest said.

Norm Sabapathy, vice-president of human resources with Maple Leaf Foods, said the company is still in the bargaining process and requested the meeting as part of that process.

"We want to keep the dialogue open," he said.

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