Food workers’ unions from around the world participating in the 2022 IUF International Meat Division Conference in Calgary, Alberta.
Calgary – October 14, 2022 – Unions representing meatpacking workers from various countries around the world recently met in Calgary to build international solidarity and a global action plan as part of the IUF International Meat Division conference. The IUF is a global union federation that includes food worker unions in more than 50 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Australia-Oceania, Europe, and the Americas. UFCW Canada is a long-standing supporter and affiliate of the IUF.
The IUF meat sector conference involved union activists from Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States who, together, focused on the most pressing issues facing meatpacking workers. Conference participants shared campaign and collective bargaining victories at the national level, including the fight against subcontracting in Germany, lifting incomes and winning safe workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic in North America, and overcoming challenges caused by corporate consolidation in Japan.
Brazilian activists also shared an update on the struggle to protect occupational health and safety gains in the meatpacking sector through the establishment of NR36, which is under threat by the neo-liberal regime of Jair Bolsonaro.
Conference participants also built on the IUF’s effort to advance a worker-centred response to climate change. Sector representatives discussed the contributions of the meat sector to greenhouse gas emissions and the role that labour activists must serve in being part of the movement to create more sustainable food systems. Using the IUF Guide on Tacking the Climate Crisis in Intensive Livestock Production, conference participants unanimously agreed on the need for a global action plan to advocate for more agroecological food ways and advance just transition for meatpacking workers.
IUF General Secretary Sue Longley and UFCW 401 activist Faduma Ahmed during the IUF’s global meat division conference.
The meat division conference was preceded by the sector’s first-ever women’s conference, which was chaired by UFCW Local 401 activist Faduma Ahmed. Priorities identified by the women’s conference – such as the need for more action in supporting domestic violence survivors and more equity in workplace and union opportunities – were shared with the larger group and unanimously accepted as core priorities for the sector.
Conference participants were also unanimous in calling for a rebuke of the Government of Canada in response to its decision to deny a visa to a Kenyan labour leader who was scheduled to discuss the most pressing issues facing meatpacking workers in Africa. Our sister from the Kenya Union of Commercial, Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW) was also missed at the women’s conference, where her insights would have been invaluable. UFCW Canada is in the process of joining the IUF in stating its concern and displeasure over the federal government denying a visa to a trade union leader from Africa.