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Olymel to close hog slaughtering and cutting plant, lay off 994 employees

The company said the decision was “necessary” to alleviate $400 million in losses in the fresh pork sector

Olymel is shuttering its hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning plant in Vallée-Jonction, Que., resulting in 944 layoffs. 

The company said the decision was “necessary” to alleviate its losses in the fresh pork sector, which have amounted to more than $400 million over the past two years due to the pandemic, labour shortages, the instability of export markets and the increase in raw material costs. 

Those losses are “jeopardizing the entire company’s profitability,” Olymel stated.

Of the 994 employees to be laid off as part of the decision, 911 are union members (CSN) and 83 are managers. 

The facility's closure will extend over a period of more than 8 months. 

As a first step, Olymel said, the evening shift involving 443 production employees will be cut in mid-September. 

The day shift, which consists of 468 other production employees, should continue depending on supply and labour availability until the plant ceases operations completely on Dec. 22. 

[Read more: “Olymel to close two Quebec plants, cut 170 jobs”]

"After carefully examining the difficult situation in the fresh pork sector and searching for the best way out of this crisis, it has become clear that closing one of Olymel's four slaughtering, cutting and deboning plants in Quebec was inevitable. However, no executive ever takes such a decision lightly. The first thing that comes to mind is the impact on employees and their families, on suppliers, including Beauce pork producers, and on the entire community in which the plant has operated for many years. Olymel management's decision to close the Vallée-Jonction plant was not region-based. It was the result of a careful analysis that focused first and foremost on the operational capabilities of each of the four slaughtering, cutting and deboning plants owned by Olymel in Quebec. Closing a plant was necessary to reduce our slaughter capacity and review our business model in order to optimize it, and our analysis ultimately revealed the limitations of the Vallée-Jonction plant, given the steady decline in the available workforce and the condition of the facilities, which would require investing tens of millions of dollars in renovations," said Yanick Gervais, president and CEO of Olymel, in a press release. 

Employees will be offered the option to sign up for a voluntary relocation program for staff that want to continue working for the company at another Olymel location. 

A reclassification committee will also be set up, in collaboration with Emploi Québec, for employees who choose to pursue a new career path.

The Olymel plant in Vallée-Jonction also has 122 temporary foreign workers on staff. The company said it has taken steps with federal and provincial authorities to allow these workers to apply for relocation to another Olymel establishment.

Over the past two years, the company has announced the reorganization of its operations, the reassignment of its workforce, task efficiency improvement efforts, the closure of certain sites, the sale of assets and a reduction in hog purchases of more than two million in Quebec and Ontario.

Olymel's repositioning in the fresh pork sector includes three modern hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning plants in Quebec: Saint-Esprit, Yamachiche and Ange-Gardien. 

The company’s slaughter capacity has been adjusted from 140,000 to 81,000 hogs per week.

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