GREELEY, Colo. — The union that represents more than 3,000 meat packing employees at JBS in Greeley has filed formal complaints against the company regarding working conditions and directly lobbying employees during contract negotiations.
The complaints come less than two days after talks between the union and JBS broke down, with union officials saying that the company is not addressing health concerns or long-term health care costs. Now, the union is saying that JBS negotiated in bad faith by approaching employees directly and attempting to pressure the union to vote on its proposal that would extend its current contract five years.
The JBS slaughterhouse has reported six deaths and more than 280 cases of COVID-19 since March. This past weekend, dozens of workers participated in a walk-out to advocate for better wages and improved safety.
JBS is offering immediate pay raises of $1.85 per hour, according to a flyer given to employees obtained by Denver7. It also proposes new base pay and top pay rates, increased short-term disability, 50-cent-per-hour pay bumps in years two through five and relaxed requirements associated with attendance bonuses, among other things. However, the union says the pay increases in years two through five are not guaranteed and union President Kim Cordova said the company does not need to reopen the current contract, which expires in 2021, to increase workers’ pay.
“It is not necessary for the company to open up the agreed upon contract to provide hazard pay, an industry base rate and a safe workplace,” Cordova said in an email. “In fact, we encourage the company to proactively implement the wage increases it offered and these workers deserve. After all, workers are risking their lives and that of their families every day that they clock into work.”
A complaint filed Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board states that “the company has failed to bargain in good faith with the union by dealing directly with union members concerning potential modifications to the collective bargaining agreement; communicating with union members about potential contract proposals in a coercive and intimidating manner, and about proposals not formally presented to the union; and attempting to undermine the union's role as the representative of its membership.”
In a statement from JBS, the company notes that 13 other facilities across the country have accepted similar deals.
“We are trying to provide additional increased wages and benefits to our deserving Greeley beef team members mid-contract. We made our proposal to the local union more than a month ago and believe our team members should have the right to vote,” JBS Head of Corporate Affairs Cameron Bruett wrote in an email. “Our proposal offers a nearly 12% increase in base wages and is in addition to the more than $3,300 in bonuses already committed to our team members. We remain hopeful the local union will allow our team members to vote for the same wages and benefits enjoyed by all of their colleagues across the country.”
Cordova disputes that the proposal came in a month ago and fears that the workers will pay more in health care costs over the next five years due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the plant.
“I believe they want workers to pay these costs,” she said.
On Tuesday, the union filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, stating that the company has not created a work environment that allows workers to social distance, does not require supervisors to wear personal protective equipment and ties incentive pay to attendance, increasing the risk of COVID-19.