Strike is on at Olymel pork plant

by Erica Shaffer
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VALLEE-JONCTION, Quebec – Workers at the Olymel pork-processing plant in Valle-Jonction in Beauce remain on strike after labor contract negotiations stalled between the company and the union representing the workers.

Olymel and the Confederation des syndicats nationaux (CSN), the second-largest trade union federation in Quebec, have spent four months in negotiations. The Ministry of Labour assigned a conciliator to the case. Olymel and CSN agreed on all non-monetary issues. But the parties remain at an impasse over salaries and benefits. The union approved the use of pressure tactics against Olymel on March 15. Workers went on strike March 18.

“Olymel regrets that after weeks of negotiations in which both parties have actually agreed on virtually every normative clause, the union's unrealistic wage demands leave little room for the kind of flexibility that could lead to a reconciliation between the two sides,” said Réjean Nadeau, CEO. “The gap appears unbridgeable. Therefore, in order to put an end to this stalemate, Olymel has decided to improve many aspects of its March 10 offer and ask the union to submit this offer to its members for approval.”

Olymel is offering a three-year deal that would provide a lump-sum payment to employees, gains in terms of recognition of years of service, annual wage increases above inflation and improved benefits, such as insurance and holidays.

But the union argued that workers have suffered a 40 percent reduction in salaries and benefits since 2007. The union also said the raises workers received were far below cost of living increases.

“Olymel management firmly believes that the offer it has made today addresses the challenges we face in the market and contains all the elements needed to keep working conditions at our Vallée-Jonction facility at the top of our industry in North America,” Nadeau concluded.

More than 1,000 individuals work at Olymel's pig slaughterhouse, butchering and boning facility at Vallée-Jonction on two shifts. The facility has a weekly slaughtering capacity of 35,000 hogs and fabricates boned products, various cuts of pork and chilled fresh pork. Much of plant's production volume is exported to foreign markets.
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