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Time for arbitration in Olymel strike, PQ says

Province's new mediator not enough, party says

(Olymel video screengrab via YouTube)

Quebec’s third opposition party is calling on the province’s CAQ government to propose arbitration for an end to a strike at a major pork slaughter plant.

The Parti Quebecois’ ag critic, Matane-Matapedia MNA Pascal Berube, and its labour critic, Jonquiere MNA Sylvain Gaudreault, made the pitch Friday, after workers from Olymel’s plant at Vallee-Jonction voted Tuesday to reject an agreement in principle reached between their union and plant management.

Following the vote, in which workers voted 57 per cent against the deal, Provincial Labour Minister Jean Boulet on Wednesday announced the appointment of a special mediator, Jean Poirier, to seek an end to the 16-week strike.

Having a new mediator is not enough as it will only prolong the dispute, Berube said in a release.

Citing estimates last week from the provincial hog farmers’ group les Eleveurs de porcs du Quebec, he said almost 150,000 market-weight hogs are now crammed in hot barns in “undignified and unacceptable” conditions.

“It’s a question of hours before farmers, under pressure and out of resources, are obligated to start euthanizing their animals.”

Boulet must propose arbitration to both the Syndicat des travailleurs d’Olymel Vallee-Jonction (STOVJ) and the company, Gaudreault said, but the minister also must assure his own “exemplary impartiality” in the matter.

The labour dispute at Vallee-Jonction — where Olymel has capacity to slaughter 35,000 hogs per week — “has gone on long enough,” the PQ said, and Quebecers must be able to foresee an end to it in the “very short term.”

Les Eleveurs de porcs du Quebec last week called for Premier Francois Legault to personally intervene to end the dispute.

Over 1,000 STOVJ-represented employees at the plant have been on strike since April 28, citing concerns over wages and working conditions. Their previous contract, which ended a strike in 2015, expired this year. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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