Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Pandemic planning leads to staff cuts at Agropur

Dairy co-operative enters 'business continuity' mode

File photo of Agropur's fluid milk plant in Winnipeg. (Dave Bedard photo)

Dairy co-operative Agropur’s “business continuity” plan against the COVID-19 pandemic calls for job cuts and layoffs for about three per cent of its total workforce.

Longueuil, Que.-based Agropur announced Thursday it will eliminate 60 positions and temporarily lay off another 200 employees, all from its Canadian operations.

In the “unprecedented context” of COVID-19, Agropur said in a release, its “priority is to maintain its dairy manufacturing and distribution operations, which constitute an essential public service.”

The layoffs affect employees “not assigned to essential operational duties,” the company said.

“These are difficult decisions to make but they are necessary in order to maintain the sustainability of our business,” Agropur CEO Emile Cordeau said in Thursday’s release. “Our goal is to bring the temporarily laid-off employees back to work as soon as we can resume the normal course of business.”

The staff cuts and layoffs announced Thursday follow a round of cuts in November that affected 125 Agropur employees, in what it described at the time as an “organizational review to increase the profitability of its Canadian operations.”

The co-operative — which has over 3,000 farmer members, and whose dairy brands include Lucerne, Natrel, Iogo, Olympic and Quebon — booked net earnings of $40.18 million on record sales of $7.255 billion in 2019, down from $67.69 million on $6.714 billion in sales the previous year.

While Agropur’s U.S. operations were supportive to net earnings as “the relationship between the cheese price and the cost of milk improved” in 2019, its Canadian operations showed decreased earnings due to “the competitive environment and operational issues.”

Agropur said Thursday it “moved quickly in the early days” of the pandemic to set up employee health and safety measures and “a business continuity plan to ensure it can continue delivering high-quality dairy products to its customers and consumers.”

Instructions are in place and have been “toughened” for staff regarding travel restrictions and telework as well as hygiene, disinfection, mandatory reporting of illness and access control at all sites for all employees, suppliers and visitors, the company said. –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

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