Olymel laying off 100 Alta. employees

Olymel laying off 100 Alta. employees
Jan 17, 2024

UFCW Local 401 is calling on the provincial government to support workers

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Olymel is laying off 100 workers from its Red Deer, Alta. pork processing facility.

“At this time, 30 temporary layoff notices were delivered last week, and another 30 temporary layoffs are planned for this week,” spokesperson Audrey Giboulet told the Red Deer Advocate on Monday.

Managers at the plant also announced the facility was overstaffed by about 200 people, the Red Deer Advocate reported.

To support employees, the company is implementing an early retirement incentive program.

Workers over 60 years old with at least 10 years of service as of Jan. 30 would be eligible for this program. Four people have already signed up.

Any further layoffs will depend on the success of the early retirement program. And affected employees could be called back to work.

Production and processing challenges are cited as reasons for the layoffs.

In May 2023, for example, Olymel announced reductions at five production facilities in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan. This reduced the company’s sow herd by almost 30 per cent.

The union representing workers at the Red Deer facility are calling on the provincial government to offer support.

With people facing cost-of-living challenges, these workers must be taken care of, said Thomas Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.

“Workers are facing unprecedented challenges due to the global affordability crisis. No one wants to contemplate unemployment for any amount of time on top of that,” he said in a statement. “While we understand that Olymel expects these adjustments will be temporary and remains confident about the future viability of the Plant, our union believes it is time for the provincial government to step up and provide tangible relief for food workers and their families.”

Olymel has made multiple changes to its operations in recent years.

In October 2022, the company reduced its workforce by 177 people, affecting mostly administrative staff in Quebec.

Then in February 2023, Olymel announced further operation reductions in Quebec.

The organization decided to close two processing facilities in Blainville and Laval because other existing locations can accommodate the production from the two affected Quebec locations.

The announcement in February resulted in the loss of 170 jobs.

And in April 2023, Olymel announced more closures affecting employees in Quebec.

The processing, cutting and deboning plant in Vallée-Jonction will wrap up operations in December, resulting in 994 lost jobs.

The company made the decision to close this location to help ensure Olymel’s survival.

“The decision was necessary to stop losses in the fresh pork sector, which have amounted to more than $400 million over the past two years and are jeopardizing the entire company's profitability,” the company said in a statement.

Farms.com has contacted Minister Sigurdson’s office for comment on the recent layoffs in Red Deer.

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