ST. HYACINTHE, QUEBEC – Olymel LP announced that its hog slaughter and cutting plant in Yamachiche, Quebec, will resume operations starting April 14. The company closed the facility on March 29 after nine employees tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The company used the 14-day plant closure to develop a new protocol aimed at protecting workers’ health and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Production will be adjusted based on the number of employees available to work, the company said. This arrangement may affect the type of products produced and the slaughter capacity. The Yamachiche plant’s weekly slaughter capacity was 28,000 hogs before the pandemic.

“Olymel is working closely with partners in the hog industry to ensure that the flow of hogs continues as normally as possible in order to avoid last-resort solutions like compassionate slaughter or euthanasia at the farm,” the company said.

The company developed new protocols for slaughter and related activities such as cutting and packaging.

“For example, when the distance of 2 meters cannot be respected between two working stations, a mitigation measure is instituted such as the installation of separating panels and the wearing of a mask and protective visor, under the recommendation of l’Institut national de santé publique du Québec, and in addition to all the other protections already in place,” Olymel said. “There will be increased monitoring and screening activities and permanent signs to raise awareness and promote responsibility. Hygiene and disinfection measures will be rigorously enforced.”

Workers living outside the Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec region will be taken to the plant via shuttle, the company said. The shuttles will run only if there is 2 meters between passengers, Olymel said. Workers will be monitored, and public health authority recommendations must be followed.

Additionally, Olymel recruited Dr. Serge Dubuc, specialist in occupational medicine, and an occupational hygiene technician to supervise the return to work. Employees who have been in isolation since March 29 will be recalled according to a list approved by public health authorities, the company said. Recalled workers must be symptom free. The first group of employees will meet with a team of people trained to give them instructions about the new protocol. Returning employees also will be required to answer a questionnaire.

Olymel developed the protocols with the help from public health authorities and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Commission des normes, de l'équité et de la santé et sécurité du travail (CNESST) and the TUAC-Local 1991-P union.

“On behalf of Olymel management, I would like to thank all of the Yamachiche plant employees, who have been following lockdown instructions since March 29 and have agreed to come back to work on April 14 in these current difficult circumstances,” said Réjean Nadeau, president and chief executive officer of Olymel. “To everyone at the Yamachiche plant and our other Olymel plants who has tested positive for COVID-19, we wish you a speedy recovery. I salute all the employees who are helping us answer the government’s call to provide an essential service that feeds millions of people in lockdown.

“Finally, I would like to thank all of our partners and representatives, clients and suppliers, elected officials and government decision-makers who are working with us through this difficult time.”

Olymel intends to continue the bonus program announced on March 23 for all employees who are paid hourly wages, until further notice. The program also will be extended to include overtime.