Maple Leaf to boost employment at Winnipeg plant

Future unclear for employees at Warman Road plant

Unionized workers at the Maple Leaf Foods plant on Lagimodiere Boulevard in Winnipeg have voted in favour of a new contract that willincrease the number of employees at thefacility by 350.

Maple Leaf will invest more than $40 million into upgrades as part ofa plan to centralize the company's ham processingoperations at the plant, increasing its workforce to nearly 1,000.

The move is a good one for employees, said Robert Ziegler, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832.

"There's wage increases each year of the three-year extension.We're averaging about three per cent a year," he said.

"There is no concessions or no concerns brought up by the membership. There's some improvement on a number of areas, and this will see good stability and good growth from that plant."

Meanwhile, Ziegler said the future of Maple Leaf's Warman Road plant in Winnipeg is still up in the air.

Maple Leaf originally planned to centralize its ham operations at that plant, but workers there refused to reopen their contract, a step that was considered necessary to make the change.

"The company indicated that they respect the employees' wish not to open their contract early, but effectively that means the work that was going to go there will no longer go there," Ziegler said.

The company has offered no comments on the future of the Warman Road plant, except to say they'll look for other products that could be handled there, Ziegler said.

"They don't know if there is any, or what work or what skill level will be involved in the future. They will address that, but at this point they have no answers for the future of Warman Road."

Maple Leaf is also considering moving its sausage production from Saskatoon to Winnipeg, Ziegler said.

The changes to the Lagimodiere plant will take at least a year to complete.