New ownership not enough to restore confidence in 'Alberta's brand'
Brooks, AB – The Alberta Federation of Labour and United Food and Commercial Workers are calling on Premier Alison Redford to stand up for a key Alberta industry by conducting an independent public inquiry.
In a public letter sent to the Premier on Thursday, October 18, AFL president Gil McGowan and UFCW Local 401 president Doug O'Halloran explained the reasons a public inquiry into the causes of the E.Coli outbreak at the Lakeside plant in Brooks would be in the best interest of consumers, the cattle industry and of Albertans.
"Only a public inquiry can ask the right questions," McGowan and O'Halloran said. "Are meat processing facilities being allowed to police themselves? Are federal cuts and changes to CFIA mandates leading to food safety crises? Is there adequate training and whistle-blower protection for workers?"
In the letter, the union says an independent inquiry needs to investigate the level of authority, autonomy and mandate of Canadian Food Inspection Agency employees, as well as examining line speeds, update reporting policies and implement effective food safety precautions.
The cattle industry employs more than 20,000 Albertans and accounts for more than $11.6 billion of the provincial economy. McGowan notes that recent change in management at the Lakeside plant does not resolve the ongoing problems in the cattle industry.
"The results of Canada's system of self-regulation have already been criticized by American inspectors," McGowan and O'Halloran said. "Over the last decade, several USDA inspections have flagged problems with beef processing plants in Alberta."
The meat packing industry in Canada has been dominated by large, multinational players for some time; the entrance of Brazilian-owned JBS USA solidifies that trend. Given their market dominance, these companies are often considered "too big to fail."
"Workers, government and business leaders share an ethical responsibility to ensure the safety of Canadian consumers," McGowan and O'Halloran said. "The independence and thoroughness of such an inquiry would be valuable in restoring public confidence in the safety and cleanliness of Canadian beef, both at home and abroad."
Gil McGowan, AFL President at 780.218-9888
Doug O'Halloran, UFCW 401 President at 403.861-2000