Slaughter has resumed at the Vallée-Jonction facility, slowly building up to full capacity
By Jackie Clark
Managers at the Olymel Vallée-Jonction slaughtering facility are ramping up pork cutting activities following a gradual return-to-work plan with COVID-19 measures in effect.
The plant had been shut down for a worker strike that began April 28. The workers union voted to support a new collective agreement and return-to-work protocol on August 31, according to a release from Olymel.
Prior to the agreement, Olymel’s management had intended to send more than 500 dismissal letters to employees, due to a planned shut down of the evening shift. Blitz mediation led by Jean Poirier led to the postponement of this dismissal.
“The decision to abolish the evening shift announced on August 24 is therefore suspended to allow the union leaders to organize a general assembly of its members and will remain suspended until the vote of the members of the Olymel Workers Union in Vallée-Jonction is held,” Paul Beauchamp, first vice-president at Olymel, said in an August 29 release.
“The closing of the evening shift had become necessary in the prospect of an indefinite continuation of the strike. This difficult decision will be abandoned in the event of a vote in favor of the agreement in principle reached today, which would receive a favorable recommendation from the union executives,” he explained. “A favorable vote will end a strike that entered its fifth month yesterday and has had extremely negative economic impacts on the company and the region and still poses the threat of humanitarian slaughter and food waste, in addition to coercing several Quebec pork producers under unacceptable breeding conditions."
After members of the workers union voted in favour of the agreement, management renounced the abolition of the evening shift.
"Olymel is relieved to have been able to reach a common ground with union members at the Vallée-Jonction plant. Working conditions and employee compensation will thus be improved, while maintaining the company's ability to operate in a highly competitive market,” said Beauchamp.
Workers completed maintenance and sanitation at the plant on September 1 and 2, and slaughter resumed on September 3. Cutting activities are scheduled to resume today, September 7, after Labour Day.
The plant will work back up to it’s typical capacity of 35,000 hogs per week.
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