TAR HEEL, N.C. -- Smithfield Packing Company announced today that it is ready to hold a new union election at its Tar Heel, N.C., pork processing plant.

The company has finalized an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board to pay $1.1 million in back wages, plus interest, to employees who were terminated by the company. The agreement stems from a federal court order regarding union elections held at the plant in 1993 and 1997. This resolution of issues nearly 10 years old clears the way for a new union election.

"Even though we disagree with the findings, we have complied with the court's decision and are ready to move forward. I hope the union will work with us to schedule a secret ballot election as soon as possible," said Joe Luter IV, president and chief operating officer of Smithfield Packing Company. "We believe our employees should have the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union. It's time to let the employees vote."

To ensure a fair election process, Smithfield has offered to pay for half the cost of an independent observer to oversee the election.

The Union Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) International union has been trying to unionize the Tar Heel plant for more than 15 years. In the two previous elections at Tar Heel, Smithfield employees voted against unionization.

Smithfield Packing Co. is America's leading pork producer. It produces a variety of pork products -- country hams, hot dogs, bacon, deli meat, fresh meat, barbeque, sausage and more -- for customers around the world. It is a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.

SOURCE: Smithfield Packing Company via PR Newswire.