ST. HYACINTHE, QUEBEC – Olymel LLC said operations at the company’s Vallée Jonction pork processing plant should gradually regain its weekly slaughter capacity of approximately 35,000 hogs. Members of the Olymel Workers Union in Vallée Jonction ratified an agreement in principle and return-to-work protocol that was reached by negotiators on Aug. 29 ending a strike that began in April.
The company said the employee recall is expected to begin the evening of Sept. 2, and resumption of operations should extend over a few days. The company believes that the plant could resume slaughtering hogs as early as Sept. 3. However, equipment must be checked to ensure it is in working order, sanitation protocols must be followed, and enough workers must be available to form teams for the day and evening shifts, Olymel said. A significant portion of the production volume of the plant is shipped to Japan.
“Olymel is relieved to have been able to reach a common ground with union members at the Vallée Jonction plant. Working conditions and employee compensation will thus be improved, while maintaining the company’s ability to operate in a highly competitive market,” said Paul Beauchamp, first vice president. “Olymel’s management would like to salute the work and efforts of its negotiating team who spared no effort to resolve this conflict and meet the conditions for a settlement, as well as the professionalism of the Québec ministry of Labour’s conciliation teams which accompanied the parties throughout most of the negotiations.”
Olymel ceased operations at the Vallée Jonction plant due to a general strike called by the union. Workers have been on strike since April 28. The union represents roughly 1,050 workers at the facility.
“Such a long strike is still to be deplored and lessons will have to be learned,” Beauchamp said. “The management of Olymel, for its part, will do everything in its power to ensure that plant operations resume in a calm and constructive atmosphere. Furthermore, I would like to highlight the great resilience of the pork producers heavily affected by this conflict.”
The strike and temporary plant closure led pork producers to urge both parties to resolve the dispute or risk the culling of market-ready hogs. To avoid culling hogs, Olymel worked with Les Éleveurs de porcs du Québec to sell pigs and piglets in the United States and move market pigs elsewhere in Canada.