Employees hoping to return from a five-month layoff at XL Foods’ Moose Jaw, Sask. beef packing plant have now been locked out, according to their union.
Citing a shortage of available slaughter cattle, XL had announced April 24 that it would shut down the Moose Jaw facility and lay off its 200 employees for up to five months ending Sept. 28.
However, Norm Neault, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada) Local 1400 in Regina, which represents the workers, said the union was informed last week that the layoff is now superseded by an indefinite lockout.
Unionized staff at the Moose Jaw plant, who have been without a contract since Jan. 31, were to be informed of the lockout at a union meeting Monday but had already been notified in a letter from the company, Neault said in an interview Tuesday.
The union has had an offer pending from the company but wanted to wait until XL resumed operations or at least had issued recall notices, he said.
The union would then know how many of the employees would be returning to work at the plant before holding a vote on the proposal, Neault said. “We have to make sure we’re not getting individuals voting who have no intention of coming back.”
About 125 of the 200 laid-off employees came out for Monday’s meeting, he noted.
With no back-to-work recall pending from the company, the union plans a meeting Sunday evening in Moose Jaw for members to review and vote on XL’s offer, Neault said.
XL’s five-month layoff notice in April had been served a few weeks after contract talks had stalled.
According to an April 24 release from UFCW, the two sides in early April had “reached an impasse over the employer’s proposal to force employees to work up to eight hours of mandatory overtime per week.”
A spokesman for Edmonton-based Nilsson Bros., the owner of XL Foods, wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.