Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Olymel hog plant workers hit the bricks in Quebec


Unionized workers at Olymel’s hog slaughter and processing plant in Quebec’s Beauce region have walked off the job and rejected the meat company’s “final” contract offer.

Olymel’s corporate communications spokesman Richard Vigneault confirmed the workers, represented by CSN (Confederation des syndicats nationaux), went on strike Wednesday evening.

CSN, in a release Thursday, said 841 of the 950-odd workers from the plant at Vallee-Jonction, southeast of Quebec City, came to a special meeting at nearby Tring-Jonction and voted 91.2 per cent by secret ballot to reject Olymel’s offer.

Martin Maurice, president of the CSN local at the Olymel plant, said the workers voted against Olymel’s offer despite “veiled threats” from the company that it would cut back or halt work at the plant.

Vigneault said Thursday the company is ready to work with conciliators from the provincial labour ministry to “redesign” their offer within the same budgetary framework.

Asked whether the plant is at risk of closing or cutting back as a result of the strike, he said the company is concerned it’s going to have to cancel contracts with hog producers.

If that turns out to be the case, he said, “we’re going to have a tough time to get them back later on.”

Olymel said this week it had presented CSN with “positive offers excluding any recovery” despite booking losses in the company’s fresh pork sector in Eastern Canada in the past two years.

The company said its final offer for a three-year contract “provides (for) wages and conditions that are superior to what is available for comparable work elsewhere in the industry in Canada, and even in North America.”

Olymel said its offer calls for a lump-sum payment to employees, a boost in recognition for years of service, yearly wage hikes above the rate of inflation and improved benefits such as insurance and holidays.

Vallee-Jonction workers already get remuneration 10 per cent above what other firms are paying, and would get wages 14 per cent above North American industry scale under the new deal, Olymel said.

CSN, Olymel said, still tabled demands last month for a “37 per cent payroll increase” in the first year of a new contract, increasing to 47 per cent by the end of the contract, which Olymel said would cost the company an additional $18 million.

Maurice previously said the plant’s workers have seen “minimal” wage hikes since agreeing to what he said was a 40 per cent rollback in 2007, while their cost of living has continued to rise. –– Network

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