After weeks of sustained activism, UFCW Canada has secured improved health and safety protections for workers in the food processing sector by working with the federal government to have union support recognized as an important factor in accessing Canada’s $77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund.
The Emergency Processing Fund was first announced by the government in May and is designed to help food processing companies access more non-disposable protective equipment, adapt to health protocols, and respond to emerging pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic so they can continue to supply Canadians with food during the crisis.
Under the new application process for the federal Emergency Processing Fund, companies seeking financial relief from the fund can submit a letter of support from the union that represents their employees, verifying that the employer has taken steps to protect workers from the coronavirus.
Companies that are not unionized, meanwhile, can submit a letter of support from their joint health and safety committee or worker representative.
Applications that are supported by letters of recommendation, as well as those that contain proposals for enhanced health and safety measures, will be given extra consideration. The letters of support will also ensure that unions like UFCW Canada are aware of employer applications and the details of their proposals.
Food processing companies that are successful in applying for financial relief from the fund will be eligible for up to $5 million in support. A top priority for the fund is to improve health and safety protections for UFCW Canada members and all sector workers on the front-lines by supporting measures that help stop the spread of the coronavirus in food processing facilities.
“UFCW Canada welcomes the new application process for the Emergency Processing Fund as greater union involvement will help secure better health and safety protections for food processing workers and ensure that companies are doing their best to keep the coronavirus at bay,” says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada. “Our union has been calling for increased financial support to protect food processing workers since the very beginning of this pandemic, and we are encouraged to see the government act,” the UFCW leader adds.
As the voice of food processing workers, UFCW Canada represents thousands of members working in the food processing industry across the country, including union members at FG Deli, BC Tree Fruits, Cargill, Maple Leaf Foods, Olymel, Sofina Foods, and many other companies. To learn more about UFCW’s presence in the food processing sector, see our union’s latest Annual Report.