166,000 hogs in limbo as strike at Olymel plant drags on


Editor’s Note: Late Sunday Olymel and its unionized employees came to an agreement in principle. Olymel announced it would delay a cut of the evening shift until Wednesday, September 1, pending a vote on the agreement. 

A four-month long strike at a Quebec Olymel plant is set to continue, as Friday morning the union representing its workers refused to accept arbitration of the matter.

René Roy, vice chair of the Canadian Pork Council and a hog farmer in the plant’s catchment area, says that producers are frustrated and stressed that the strike situation has dragged on this long with no end in sight.

At present, there are approximately 166,000 hogs ready for slaughter that don’t have hook space to go to, he says.

That means that Quebec producers in the region of the Vallée-Jonction plant are dealing with higher mortality and crowded barns — a welfare risk in the recent hot weather — and are faced with shipping hogs as far away as Red Deer, Alta.

Producers have also been selling thousands of piglets to the U.S. and other parts of Canada to dial down hog numbers in the provincial value chain.

Roy says that the hog producers have been working closely with their provincial producer group and government to help inform Olymel and the union of the dire consequences of the strike. Olymel most recently laid out an ultimatum to the union workers, saying the company will cut the evening shift (500 jobs) going forward if there is no resolution. The union has until Sunday, August 29, at 5 pm to respond.

An influx of cooler weather this weekend will help with animal welfare, Roy adds; however, fall is also typically a fast growth time for hogs, which is normally a good thing, but this year the faster rate of gain is only adding to the problem.

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